When We Ask for "All Things New"
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. –Isaiah 43:18-19
At the end of the Book of Revelation, Christ proclaims from His throne “Behold, I am making all things new”. I have, at times, found myself praying for this to be a reality in my life. I have been stuck in patterns of behavior, stuck in relationships that don’t seem to grow, or stuck in employment situations that weren’t offering me a path for greater depth. In these times of being stuck, newness has often seemed like relief from my present circumstances. “If I just had something fresh, if I just started over with new friends, if I got a new job, then I would be happy.” I have found, however, that my vision of “newness” is rarely transformational, because I usually want the easy version- I’m aiming for cheap renewal.
My version of renewal is usually for a once-and-for-all fix – some small change that eliminates whatever isn’t working and makes everything right again. This type of renewal doesn’t ask much of me; all I have to do is allow myself to hyper-focus on all the problems in my life, then try to find a way to divorce myself from whatever they are connected to. I can maintain all my assumptions about how things should work and what should happen, while jettisoning anything that isn’t fitting my pre-established mold. I don’t need to change, the world needs to change; newness is for everything else, it isn’t actually for me.
The Newness of God is clearly something else. Real newness is not just about circumstances, because circumstances are born from relationships. Real newness requires foundational change, not cosmetic touch-ups. If I want to live a renewed life, I need to be willing to let go of my assumptions about how things should work, how my life should be going, and what I need to do to get there. The Newness of God is not the working out of some mechanized, pre-formed process, but an experimental unfolding of intricate relationships, organized around purpose, not process. It’s not about switching out parts, it’s about rethinking what the whole thing is organized for.
Jesus is in the business of renewal. His ministry on Earth was a long series of invitations to the Newness of God, in body, in heart, in spirit, and in action. The church, which was born from an embodied experience of God’s Newness, has been tasked with participating in that renewal and building the relationships which sustain it. As we enter 2018, we have an opportunity to contemplate what renewal might mean for us. The new thing which is being prepared cannot be received as the former things were; it is a new thing, and therefore we must become a re-new-ed thing in order to receive it.
It is no accident that prophets find themselves in the wilderness when they follow God into Newness. They have to let go of the former things, to step away from the well-trod path that hasn’t led them anywhere, and venture into the wild, creative spaces where possibility abounds. They can do this because they trust that the God who brought them this far goes with them into the Newness that is being prepared. May we find the courage to do the same.
In Peace and with Love,