This I Believe
I believe in Renewal.
When I was in college, I became interested in the concept of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, which I first learned about in physics classes. Entropy, in a nutshell, deals with the fact that things in nature tend toward a state of disorder. Over time, resources are used in ways that make them less useful for the future. For example: A match, when struck, burns and becomes a piece of charred wood. Through my studies, I learned that not only did this principle have applications in physics, but also in many other areas, such as chemistry and economics.
This idea fascinated me, and I found myself thinking about it as I grew older, applying it to many areas of interest – and even to my personal life. It seemed that things like relationships obeyed this rule: As the marriage wore on, it became more complicated – tending towards disorder, just as the second law of thermodynamics suggested it would. As a father, I felt that my children needed me less and less, as my role in their life became more diffuse and unclear. In my career, I felt productive, but unfulfilled. My spiritual life, very important to me, had become stagnant and dry. There was a dreadful realization that the match of my life had been struck, and it was burning down to the end, leaving the charred wood – what then?
In September 2001, I was invited to attend a three-day spiritual retreat called Cursillo, which focuses on renewal. It was held at a church camp, in a beautiful woodsy part of northern Alabama. I didn’t know what to expect, much like the rest of the 45 or so attendees. We began with a period of silence, we walked the Stations of the Cross, and we sat through a series of short talks on Christianity. We got to know each other as we discussed and debated the talks that we heard, and we sang, laughed, prayed, and even cried together, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11. I learned one of the most important lessons of my life that weekend: I learned that I am beloved by God, just as I am.
I came away from that retreat a changed person, and I haven’t been the same since. I understand when evangelicals say they’ve been “born again”, because that’s what happened to me.
No longer do I dread the burning of the match that is my life. Instead, I have learned to cherish the heat and the light.
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