New Beginnings

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

~Romans 12:2

Yesterday’s full solar eclipse was the first one in 99 years to be visible over North America. I was fascinated by the astronomical event itself, but even more so by all the speculations it generated (mostly involving death, destruction and disaster) in our “scientifically enlightened” society.   

This tremendous public interest - and fixation with doom and gloom - is nothing new. In many cultures, solar eclipse legends involve fearsome mythical creatures eating or stealing the Sun.  Others see angry and quarreling gods at work. Closer to home, some Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions interpret them as a sign of God’s displeasure with humanity’s sinful ways and harbingers of divine wrath, even of the end of the world.  Not everyone looks on this celestial event as an ill omen, however.  For many American Indian tribes, a total solar eclipse simply heralds transformation and new beginnings.  According to Crow traditional wisdom, the sun first dies and then is rejuvenated during a total solar eclipse.  For the Navajo, the Sun is the epicenter of all creation.  They view its eclipse as a sacred event linked to death and rebirth, a time for prayer, reverence and focus on the end of evil and the start of a better future.

Of course there’s no scientific evidence that solar eclipses affect human behavior, colorful legends notwithstanding.  However, I think it’s still a good excuse for considering where we’ve been and for making a new beginning in our personal lives.  In so many areas, we rely heavily on external standards to judge our own performance. That’s usually a good thing. It helps us stretch beyond our perceived limits and achieve greatness.  But if we continually compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing, we’re actually just conforming to the patterns of this world. The transformation to a new and better way of living starts when we choose to adhere to a “higher standard”, and follow up the renewing of our minds with soul-inspired action.  

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:23-25)

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