Do we get more than just one chance?
My Dear One,
Was it worth it? Think for a moment about the last time you dared to do something different or try something new - perhaps even risky? How did it go? Did it make you more inclined or less inclined to try something new and different again?
There is an old adage that goes…
“You Only Live Once.”
I’ve been thinking about this saying a lot lately.
We tend to tell ourselves and one another “you only live once” as way of pushing ourselves forward, across some emotional, psychological or perhaps even physical threshold. Be courageous, it says. Try and see, it says. We’ve even given it the acronym YOLO. It’s akin to the latin phrase carpe diem meaning "seize the day” or the phrase “you’ll never know unless you try.”
But the underlying meaning behind “you only live once” also carries with it a sense of anxiety about life that isn’t at all helpful and in fact, I believe, may be plain misguided.
In essence, it says “Do it now, life is short and you may not get another chance.”
There are some ways this is certainly true. But there are just as many or more ways it is not true whatsoever. I’ve had many, many second chances, and third, and fourth, and … in fact my faith has at its center a loving God who continues to give me chances I don’t deserve, chances to try and try again. And sometimes it feels like more than just another shot at trying something, it feels like another shot at life. It is a mini-resurrection. An “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see” kind of opportunity.
Do we only live once? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know what to make of our Hindu or Buddhist brothers and sisters’ notion of reincarnation. I think our western minds don’t know how to process the intended meanings behind this notion very well. But I also don’t find a lot within scripture or the voice of the Spirit within my heart that says once shot is all we get. Whether we live once or a thousand times, what I am certain is that God gives us more than one chance at things. God’s grace often feels like its own kind of re-incarnation, a chance to again incarnate/enflesh myself and take up residence in my own life, one from which I may have been vacant or even departed.
You only live once? If anything, I think scripture might in a way be saying …
“You Only Live Twice"
Consider, for example, this story from John’s gospel:
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 6:1-8
There is an awakening to life, Jesus promises, that is there for the taking for those willing to undergo the transformation. It is such a radical shift that re-birth is the best description we can give it. This phrase “born again” can also be translated “born anew.” It is a time when we taste the promise that God is a God who shall make all things new. For some it comes mid-life. For some much earlier. For others, sadly, never at all.
But for the wise it comes not once but every single day.
Each day we are given two lives to choose from:
First, there is the life you inherit each morning when you wake, the one that is predicated on everything you did yesterday, everything you’ve ever done, everything anyone has ever done, the entire course of human history conspired to give you this life in this day. It is a gift. It is your “first life.” Give thanks for it.
But then there is the life you will create with this day. What will you do with what you have been given? Will you live out the same patterns of old, the ones that have held you back, that limit your life? Will you listen again to the hardwired voices that seek to limit your potential by telling you all you’ve done is all you are able to do, that there is nothing more in life for you than this, that your potential has already been realized?
When you wake in the morning, having emerged (willingly or unwillingly) from the physical darkness of the world’s nocturnal womb, will you choose to step back into the soul’s womb of God’s grace and live this day with all the hope it deserves? Will you choose to be born not just of the flesh but also of the Spirit and live out not only your own life but the continuing life of Christ now enfleshed within your flesh, inspirited within your spirit?
I recently saw a meme that read “On particularly rough days, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100%, and that’s pretty good.”
Whatever rough day we might have had yesterday, we survived. Today is a new day. It is another chance at life. And if today doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, there is another day coming, literally on the horizon.
We can choose to live only once, to blindly walk through this linear, inherited life we have received. Or we can choose to live again/anew, being born anew with fresh possibility, hope and faith in a God who has promised to be with us always, to the end of the age.
Choose this week to love the Lord God with all your Soul, which is your relationship with self, others and God. What is it that God is eager to give birth within you? What are you being re-born into? What re-introduction to yourself might be necessary for this rebirth? What re-imagining of your relationships with others might be needed? What re-engagement with God needs to happen to create the space for new love to flourish within you?
Even if we only live once, God invites us to a re-birth with each new day, each new moment, that may naturally flow from all that came before or may be a radical departure from anything you previously imagined.
And if today doesn’t turn out to be the day “it” happens, take comfort that each new day is a new opportunity for renewal. After the death of slumber, rise to meet the sun with thanksgiving and great hope.
Open your arms to all you have been given. Open your soul to all that is yet to come. Take the risk.
following The Way,
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.