I have no desire to be a starfish. (What would I do with five arms?) But this wonderful sea creature does possess one trait that might be just a bit enviable. Like a number of other astounding organisms—e.g., lizards, salamanders, sea cucumbers—starfish can grow back limbs and other parts of their bodies that have been damaged or severed. The process is called *regeneration and it’s always working. We could think of this amazing ability as a kind of relentless regeneration.
It turns out that regeneration might also take place in human biology. The best examples come from brain science and stem cell therapies. Human beings may not be able to grow entire limbs, but our bodies regularly heal wounds, grow new neuronal connections and replace aging cells with new copies. Biologically, we are also regenerating organisms. While we are still alive, our bodies don’t stop renewing themselves.
At Easter, we speak and rejoice about the renewal—resurrection—of our entire being. Christ’s Resurrection predicts the new life that will come after death. But all along the way—even at this moment—parts of our bodies and spirits are being made new by God. This process is ongoing, stubborn and effective.
Spiritual, biological and attitudinal rebuilding takes place as part of God’s providence that’s already built into our genes. Into our baptized and blessed spiritual cores. These miniature resurrections restore our minds and bodies—a few cells, experiences or feelings at a time.
Death is also unrelenting, but that’s not the final stanza in our life-songs. We know and believe this truth: Resurrection with follow death. Our most-fervent hallelujahs don’t have to wait for a far-off future. By God’s grace, we’re being regenerated—renewed, enlivened, resurrected—every day.
*Regeneration was originally a theological concept—God’s power to accomplish radical spiritual change in an individual. Because the term seemed to fit a number of biological or physical processes, it took on wider meanings. (E.g., renewal, reproduction, revitalization, new beginnings, restoration.) It’s easy to find those applications outside of theology—e.g., home soft-water treatment systems, spiders, plants, the climate, organizations. It’s nice to know that this most-basic belief about God is embedded in any other use of the term!
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