New.

7 11 2010

About a year ago I moved to Tacoma, WA rather reluctantly.  I had a great job opportunity but I was tired of moving and starting over.  Since 2003 I have lived in three different cities (Tacoma would be the fourth) and three drastically different communities, moving from college to working in politics to seminary (anyone want to talk politics and religion?).  Tacoma didn’t represent potential or adventure for me, it represented the potential for further isolation from a beloved community, another obstacle to the continuity I craved in my relationships and lots of “get to know you” conversations I’d already had enough of.  In all my other seasons of transition, I embraced each new place and experience whole-heartedly, without blinking an eye.  But my heart fought Tacoma and remained reluctant.  For the first time in my life, I lacked the energy to engage with unfamiliar people around me, my heart couldn’t release the people I loved in California and I didn’t want anything to do with anything….new.

This reluctance and deep inability to embrace change was, in itself, a change for me that I didn’t enjoy but had to accept.  I couldn’t be untrue to myself or how I felt.  So I sat in it.  And over the course of the past year, God has consistently, faithfully, and persistently nudged me, invited me, reminded me and encouraged me to not reject newness.  I decided to do my own informal word study of “new” in Scripture to see what God really thought of it.  Admittedly I didn’t use the Greek, but nevertheless received a helpful overview.  Referred to almost 200 times, the simple word “new” has a lot to say about who God is and what it’s therefore like to live with him.  Consider this:

In 173 English references to “new” I only found nine that put the concept in a negative light.  That’s only 5%.  14% of the references were neutral and the remaining 81% of appearances referred to “new” in some positive way.  Newness in humanity and in God’s kingdom is primarily and overwhelmingly a good thing, and a normal thing.

The downsides of newness are legitimate: Israel, for example, chose new gods and we all know that didn’t bode well for them.  God despised Israel’s new moon festivals when their hearts and integrity didn’t precede their celebration.  New kings and new Christians had limitations because they didn’t have the experience needed to make certain wise judgments.  So, my hesitations with newness weren’t far off the mark – history, experience and the “familiar” develops relationships and builds wisdom in us that has deep value.

But new things have their benefits too: most references to “new” in Scripture relate to the new moon festivals or to the seasonal harvest.  New grain and wine were prized and their cyclical coming was depended on and celebrated as evidence of God’s faithfulness.  New things are stronger – new strength, new cloaks, new carts, new bowls are all referred to as superior things.  The Psalmists often speak of new songs they will sing, a direct result of new acts of faithfulness from God worth their praise.  Isaiah encourages us that God will do new things and tell new things to his people…and we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth that promises God’s shalom.  The New Testament is rich with the promise of newness: we have a new covenant precisely because God found fault with the old one.  God gives new hearts and new spirits, and new mercies every day.  God’s people, with the Holy Spirit, will speak new languages, will have new life and a new nature.  And, in the chapter of the final book of Scripture we are told that indeed God is making all things new and we are given a picture of the beauty of newness.

After seeing how clearly God is a god of newness and how he has made newness to be a part of our months and our days, I challenged myself to celebrate newness somehow each month.  And as I do, I see how new I am now too.  In deep – sometimes unexplainable – ways, I notice myself engaging challenges differently, working differently, thinking differently, dreaming differently…all as a result of the way God is growing me here in this new place.  I still long for stability and comfort, but in knowing that God in his very nature will always be doing new things, I can’t resist newness too long or I will resist God himself.

What’s new with you?

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