Instead of feeling sad about not being at Campaigners tonight, I’m writing this blog post. First, to fill my time with something useful and more importantly, in the midst of a deep sadness to remind myself (and hopefully you) about one of God’s most compelling promises in the bible.
Exactly three months ago today, my life changed. A lot. And almost everything in my life is different as a result. (I would say everything, but in my Pastoral Counseling seminary class I learned to avoid using universal qualifiers because they are never true…did you catch that subtle joke? I hope so…) Anyways, here’s a brief sampling:
NEW roommates. a NEW car. NEW singleness. a NEW job title. a NEW YL ministry. YL at a NEW high school. a NEW church home. a NEW starbucks gold card. spending time with a NEW community of friends. a NEW role in the rednow blogosphere. living in a NEW room in my apartment. a NEW name for my apartment. a NEW favorite dessert. NEW hopes and plans for the future.
Recently, I’ve begun to experience these things less as a loss of what was, and more in light of God’s promise to make “everything new.” (Revelation 21:5; I suppose universal qualifiers are okay for God.)
In Isaiah, God says it this way:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
And Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Part of becoming a new creation involves a letting go of the old. A process that will involve sorrow because transition of any kind is loss. But God turns this suffering into endurance; endurance into character; and character into hope (Romans 5:1-5). A hope, I believe, that is fulfilled in God’s promise to make all things new!
This is a promise that I’ve clung to (the “desperate-gripping-so-hard-my-knuckles-are-white” kind of clinging) over the last few months. It’s a promise that slowly replaces suffering with joy. And it’s a joy that withstands grief and rises above sorrow. A joy that comes only from leaning into the pain, because Carl Jung says it well, “There is no substitute for true suffering.”
Another way that I have come to understand this promise more fully is from a Gospel passage that had always perplexed me a bit:
“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
As new wine, so to speak, I can’t go back to my old way of life. My life, my relationships, the way I spend my time, everything, needs a fresh wineskin. My old life would literally destroy my new self. So God has fashioned a fresh wineskin, a new story for me. And I am finding the deep, sustaining joy that comes from living it.