R is for “Respair”

This is an entry in the “Acrostic Contemplations.

Restore, regard, redemption, resurrection, repair, respite…again and again we find the prefix “re” in English. From the Latin re, it is an inseparable prefix meaning “back” or “again.” Even a moment’s reflection reveals why we find it so often in our language. Throughout life we are aware that things are not as they should be and we look back for a time when all was right or perhaps innocent. When relationships and life became difficult and painful, we seek to revisit and return to a time before we said those hurtful things or when we had less responsibility and fewer burdens. When we are tired and exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally—we seek respite, refreshment, restoration, and renewal.

All of history is the story of return and renewal. Genesis opens with the message that God made the world with purpose and intent, but most of all that it was very good…when it began, when it was made, when it was new. Things go down hill quickly after that and ever since we seek to return to that state of innocence, if not ignorance.

We are often told that we should live life moving forward, not looking back, and having no regrets. We are also told “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Which is it? Both/And. How we consider the past shapes our present and our future. If we look back with remorse and regret, we can move ourselves into a destructive state. We can too easily rehash old mistakes and relive memories that only drive us into despair. But if we can thoughtfully (and dare I say, prayerfully) reflect on the past, considering what we have learned, how far we have come, and how we have grown, then that reflection can lead to renewal and rebirth.

The story of Genesis is the story of all of history and our own personal history, but it is not a story of despair, but rather of respair. Sure, it explains why our world is in the state it is in, how our selfish and greedy behaviors cause us to destroy relationships and the earth. Yet it also offers respair, the return to hope, the recovery of life after death. The history of God’s love for Israel and humanity is the story of restoration. God reaches out to us to restore us to our intended nature, to restore our relationship with God, to restore us to life. The path away from the Garden ultimately leads to the New Heaven and New Earth. The message of Easter is that through the resurrection of Christ, the loss of mortal life brings immortality, as the perishable is sown and the imperishable is raised.

And all things shall be renewed.

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