When each New Year arrives, many of us hang up a new wall-calendar or insert a new set of pages in our day-timers. And we sometimes make a resolution to behave differently, perhaps employing a book-related metaphor to describe the hoped-for change: We say we are going to "turn over a new leaf" (the pages of books sometimes being called its "leaves"). Or we say we are going to "close the chapter" on something we wish to leave in the past. Especially when the passing year was filled with trouble (as 2020 was with its COVID pandemic), we might say we are eager to "close the book" on the year gone by.
Fortunately, we have been at this process of becoming since the day we were born. We have a lot of practice with it because becoming is built into our biological nature. As the neurobiologist Steven Rose explains:
the developing infant begins to chew her food....
The paradox of development is that a baby has to be at the same time
a competent suckler and to transform herself into a competent chewer.
Our faith-traditions encourage us onward into unknown territory by reminding us that the ultimate Source of Life is also the very Ground of our Being that remains beneath us, supporting us even as we sometimes stumble.
Interestingly, the idea that even God cannot predict exactly what will be and what will be demanded in our engagement with the Divine is expressed in a pivotal story in the Christian Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible). In Exodus 3:12-14, Moses, after being given a challenging long-term assignment by God, is promised by God, "I will be with you." Nevertheless, Moses tries to gain more control over the situation by requesting to be told God's name. Moses wants more control over the future than even God can promise. And so, God provides to Moses the open-ended enigmatic reply, "I AM WHO I AM." Translators sometimes add a footnote to this verse in order to express that God will be with Moses in both "being" and "becoming" -- just like that baby who both suckles and chews. Such footnotes explain that what God has said could also be translated as "I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE," or even "I WILL BECOME WHAT I WILL BECOME."
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Is there a new shoot emerging that you would like to help cultivate?
(The Rose quote is from his chapter in Alas, Poor Darwin,
ed. by Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, © 2000. p. 310.)