He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
-Jesus, Revelation 21:5
A friend reminded me recently that our bodies are constantly replacing cells, as old ones die and new ones are multiplied and created within us. I had some awareness of this, but I decided to research it a bit more. It is absolutely fascinating.
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have been measuring and documenting this process for years. And they've actually measured that we replace 330 billion cells every single day. That's about 1% of all of our cells. In other words, every 100 days or so, the equivalent of your entire body's cells get replaced. Certain fat and muscle cells have a longer life that can be years, but even they are turning over. It's been said that you are replaced completely every 7-10 years. That seems about right.
You are not the same person you were a few years go. Goodness, you're not even the same person you were at Christmas.
What is true of the physical is often true of the spiritual. At each point in time, we are not the same people as we were, even just a moment ago. Some things remain, but each new experience leads us to understand the world in new ways. Each time we read a scripture passage or hear a familiar story, we are not the same person who heard it the last time. God will speak to us in new ways because we are a new people.
In light of this... Your friend saying, "Don't ever change!!" is both impossible and (sorry!) bad advice.
Our bodies are built for constant regeneration. So it is with our spirits. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth, that each disciple is a "new creation" as they trust Christ. They are being made into something different. They will experience the world in different ways because they're not the same that they were before encountering the grace of God. And in his letter to the Romans, Paul also encourages them to fully embrace the renovation process, inviting them to become "transformed by the renewal of their minds." Paul tells them that they will become new people by learning to dwell on the beauty of God's kingdom in Christ, again and again. It's an interesting contrast. He is encouraging his young church members to think about the unchanging grace and love of God; and Paul knows that as they encounter it over and over again, they will constantly be changing. I love that. It gives me hope that God will speak and shape me in new ways, even through things I've heard before. Even through the deepest truths that we think we know by now.
Truth be told, my friend shared that original comment to me because I was teaching on a theme similar to something that I had taught about 4-5 years ago. And I was expressing concern that people would be bored, or feel like "they've heard this before."
"We are completely different people now," he said.
He's right. Billions of cells have been replaced since then! We are not the same people as we were. And God is always in the process of making things new, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. We may even find that God's love leads us to new understandings in the deep places. I am astonished at how the teachings of Jesus can hit differently every single time I read them, even a day apart. Because I'm not the same. I'm regenerating, by God's grace.
I invite you to take a moment and invite God to regenerate your spirit. Take a look at the words of Jesus with fresh eyes. What familiar words do you now see differently? What weakness do you now identify with in new ways? What love do you now feel more acutely?
Do not be afraid that you are not the same person, even if your own regeneration has been a painful process. God is alongside us in it all, nudging our spirits toward renewal along with body and mind. I hope we can be open to that. Maybe we'll even find that there is something wonderful and fresh in the same unchanging love of God. It is such a gift that although God does not change, we certainly do.
Lord, I want to welcome this season of my life with you, and open myself up to fresh encounters with your timeless love.