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Out with the Old, in with the … Old

  • Jason Gray
  • 2009 10 Feb
Out with the Old, in with the … Old

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”

— Rev. 21: 3-5

Well, here we are at the start of a new year. New. Year. And I’m reminded of how we are a people generally in love with the idea of “new.” It’s an idea that drives our economy, culture and even our development as human beings. We worship at the altar of “new.” New holds promise; it is what will give us the edge. New is sexy. Whatever something is is almost secondary to whether it is “new” or not.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if our love for the “new” didn’t come with the side effect of our often shunning the “old.” I remember reading that people are less likely to read authors who are dead than they are to read the latest sensation. The only problem is that some of the best books ever written are by authors who are no longer with us. So in this way, our infatuation with the latest will not always lead us to the greatest.

Sometimes I’m afraid that we treat the “old” like the unpopular kid in school who to sit next to in the cafeteria could ruin your life and brand you as some kind of social leper. But “the old” still has some legs to run with, and we shouldn’t write him off just yet. “The old” may still have a lot to teach us.

At the start of the new year, I imagine many of us are enticed by the idea of a second chance (or third or thirty-third, etc.), a chance to start fresh with a clean slate.

Who doesn’t long for a clean slate? However, I would offer up that it’s all the old things from the last year that will give this new year meaning and help us to make clear-headed decisions for the future. It is through grace that God redeems our mistakes by letting us learn from them, and if we toss all of that out as last year’s trash, we could be in danger of not learning anything from them, reducing them to a tragic and meaningless waste.

So what if instead of closing the book on 2008 on New Year’s Eve, we opened it on New Year’s morning and understood it as a map of where God has brought us through and where He may be leading us now? What did 2008 mean?  What mistakes can I learn from? What did it reveal about who I am, good or bad? I think that this is the way we can hallow 2008, call it good for all it taught us—no matter how difficult it may have been—and see its days for the stepping stones they were that by God’s grace led us (sometimes against our will) through to the doorstep of 2009.

So it’s a new year, and there is a sense of getting a fresh start, a sense of hope that this year might be better, that maybe we might be better, smarter, more motivated, more loving, or whatever it is we hope we can be more of. However, I don’t think the newness of a year is anything for us to put hope in. In fact, I wonder if the old year is a better place for us to invest our hope, for it stands as a testament of God’s faithfulness, mercies new every morning and grace once again sufficient.

If you’re here, you’ve made it, and that means something. And if God brought us through 2008, we have reason to believe He’ll see us through 2009, too. So let’s not dismiss the old in all our anticipation of the new. It is all that we’ve seen and known in 2008 that will help and nourish us in 2009. Let’s honor the old as veterans that have fought the battles and wars that will help us live a more peaceable 2009.

The Bible talks about a time coming when God will make all things new, when tears will be obsolete, suffering a vague memory, when all of our hardships will be like old tales that we remember with wonder that we saw such things. Even in this, “the old” will serve a purpose. All the pain and disappointment we know in these days are the very things that give meaning and context and set us looking with longing that the Lord will use to lead us to the day when we’ll no longer see through the glass darkly, when there will be no need for the sun or the stars since we will walk our days by the light of the glory of God.

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©2009  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

**This column first published on February 12, 2009.