Scrolling through Instagram today turned out to be good for my mind, my heart–my soul. Kinda crazy, considering I rarely scroll for very long, but I did today because a friend’s post grabbed me. She did this clever year-in-review that captured their miraculous journey from positive pregnancy test to birth through the merriest of holidays with their loooooong awaited baby. Her pictures captured the raw emotions and the pure delight.
Her 2021 story has been years in the making, and now she and her husband are living out the new God has for them.
Scrolling on, I read a post from a newer friend who penned a personal story about her beloved Bible being made new by her father. The process was months-long and tedious as he restored the stained, folded, and loose pages then re-glued it all into the renewed cover. Talk about a labor of love and a gorgeous restoration. Yet my friend had resisted when her father first asked to take on the task, afraid she’d be lost without her Bible. Even when she relented, the wait stretched slowly, and she wondered if it would be worth the cost.
But now, holding the like-new Bible in her hands, she looks back over the interminable months and knows it was totally worth it.
I’ve carried both these stories around with me for a while now, and even as I type, I discover that I’m moved more deeply than I first realized, and I’m learning something about what it means to live in the new, to be made new. And, I can’t help but think of one more behold passage:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”2 Corithians 5:17, ESV
Living the New
Moves, births, deaths, aging, illnesses–these are but a few catalysts that bring change to our lives. And whether the change is deemed good or not, it has a way of ushering in new that challenges our sensibilities and capsizes our comfort of the known.
2020’s big move for our family brought changes that propelled us into unknown futures at warp speed. Navigating such abrupt newness led me to a crossroads of sorts, that of choosing to continuously lament all the losses OR to focus on God and what He has in mind for my future. In similar fashion, 2021’s illnesses slowed me down and forced me to face fear head-on, effectively challenging my faith in an invisible God with equally unseen plans and purposes.
Living in the new these last two years has allowed me opportunities to flex my faith muscles in ways I hadn’t had to before. And the lessons are shaping and strengthening me in ways I didn’t know were possible.
I’ve discovered beauty in solitude. Like the petals of a flower opening in the spring, my heart opens in the warmth of God’s love. I no longer resist the quiet, the alone times, the long hours stretching before me. Instead, I’ve learned to lean into the silence, seeking more of God, noticing more of His world, and observing more and more of my own tendencies.
I’m finding ways to rest in His presence. Like the waves of a calm sea, my soul seeks to ebb and flow in rhythm with God’s grace. So, rather than trying to force my plans onto every stressful situation, I’m learning to pause and refocus my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s a process. It requires practice. It takes grace with myself. But I am beginning to see my reactions to life’s circumstances with more clarity and humility.
Maybe what I’m finally figuring out is that all this change isn’t without strain and suffering. Maybe what I need to learn next is how to be okay with that truth. Because with Jesus, there is always purpose in the pain and the process, in the waiting and the wondering. And, it’s worth it.
As we face the changes life puts in our paths, Jesus offers a power that can only come from Him–not ourselves, not other people. Just Him. When we reach for Him and allow His goodness and grace to enter our beings, we’re better able to lay down our ways for His. We’re more likely to opt for flexibility as the changes challenge our equilibrium. But more than anything, as we live in the new, we are changed. We are made new.
Most theologians–if not all–agree that becoming a new creation, as Paul describes it, is the metamorphosis of a person who has come to know Jesus Christ in a personal, real way. Matthew Henry says that when a person is truly IN Christ, a regenerative grace enters that person. And like a caterpillar that goes through the extraordinary transformation in the cocoon, we burst forth as a new creation. Only for us, it’s a continual process, one in which we learn to:
See the world differently–as God sees it.
Love people more fervently.
Feel our emotions more fully–and healthily.
Desire things more holy.
Surrender ourselves more willingly.
Because we’re made new.
In fact, the old has passed away. We are shedding the sin layers. We are laying down our selfish ambitions. We are turning in repentance toward this new life Christ offers.
BEHOLD! Paul calls us to stop. To see. To perceive.
Behold, the new has come! Our hearts are new. Our souls are new. Our perspectives are new. Our inner lives are re-newed, so our outer lives become something different, changed. New.
Looking back has power. It can reveal to us the ways we’ve successfully navigated change, grabbed hold of our anchor that is Christ, and walked by a faith that gives us hope despite all the unknowns. Yet, as another new year arrives, we don’t want to have eyes only for the past. Yes, learn from past mistakes and glean from the lessons of the past year (or two), but we must turn our eyes toward Jesus and the future He has for us, stepping into it with a hope and a faith that speaks of all the new we’re living into and made for.
Just as each of my friends chose to trust, to release, and to hope, we have a choice. Each day of the coming year, we get to choose Christ. We get to choose how we respond to all the changes and challenges we know life will bring. When we’re in Christ, His regenerating grace will help us become all He has made us to be.
And, with that grace, we’ll walk each day with renewed hope and strengthened faith. Because we are made new in Christ.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:16-21, NIV