My dad brought up an interesting quote in an email he wrote me. It was a quote by Joseph Campbell where he said, “There are two great tasks in life: one is becoming; the other is unbecoming.” This quote appeared in an ESPN article about the second life of a professional athlete after retirement and how they cope.
First of all, it is a strange phenomenon that men and women can be paid millions of dollars to play a game and then retire in their thirties. I do not doubt that it took much sacrifice to get to their levels of performance often at the point of addiction to their sport and success. It is difficult for me to imagine such a transition from the sports glory to the status of a “regular person”. However, this difficult transition can happen in any career, relationship, or hobby and what it reveals is that a person has wrapped their whole identity into something temporal. When that temporal thing has been lost their identity goes with it.
We must live for eternity, for an identity that will never fade. It makes me think of 2 Corinthians 4:16.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Which brings me to my second point. Joseph Campbell is on to something here, but I think he is a bit off. There are not two tasks of Unbecoming or Becoming, but rather two paths.
Athanasius in his “On the Trinity” spoke about the process of man returning to nonexistence because of sin. From nothing man was created into the image of God. When man sinned it damaged that image as well as his right relationship with God. Because of sin man slowly started retreating back into this state of “non-existence”, which was less and less like God’s image. This is the path of unbecoming.
But the hope is that Christ has come and died for sin. Those who have received the free gift of eternal life from God in Christ Jesus have enter into the beautiful state of becoming. Because Christ has taken our sin and given us His righteousness, God’s image is being restored to man through sanctification. Though outwardly we waste away we are being renewed day by day, more and more into the Likeness of Christ, the Image of God. This is the path of becoming.
Maybe Campbell’s famous quote should be, “There are two great paths in life: Unbecoming or Becoming.”