I’m sitting here tonight watching my daughter watch a movie on her tablet. She’s probably watching something about fairies, unicorns or a princess. I love to watch her intently stare at the screen, smiling every now and then for reasons I can only imagine. We’re both wearing headphones because I’m trying to write, which she calls my “work” – if she only knew this was more like therapy. She looks up every now and then and yells something across the room and we both giggle. And, just now, she took her headphones off and motioned for me to do the same and simply said, “I love you”.
Of course, I melted into a puddle of goo because that’s what one does when a child spontaneously says,” I love you”. And, since she’s the child who will not give me two hugs in the morning because one is “enough”, I must take her affection when I can get it. She’s four, creative, musical and somewhat of a free spirit which I love but also scares me to death. In so many ways, she’s just like her father but, when she rolls her eyes and a sassy, opinionated comment comes out of her mouth, I say to myself, “There I am”.
I’ve often said that my children got the best of my husband and the worst of me personality wise. That’s another topic for a different day but it’s true. And, of course, I discipline their behavior but, in my head, I’m sometimes applauding their brilliant sarcasm and back-talk. They get it honestly and I’m sure my dad would agree – they got it from the master.
I’ve been caught staring at my family a lot lately reflecting on who we are and how far we’ve come.
You see, that sassy, opinionated daughter of mine who often calls me “Mary Ann” instead of “Mommy” was an impossible dream eight years ago. At that time, my husband and I were a couple of weeks away from experiencing some of the darkest days of our lives. In the coming months we would walk through what I can only imagine David meant as he wrote “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23. Oceans of tears were shed as we physically walked but emotionally limped into our pastor’s office and then into a counselor’s office with nothing more than the shattered pieces of broken hearts.
Week after week we rode to the counseling appointments in silence and in dread of what the coming hour would reveal. We emptied our darkest secrets and greatest fears on a stranger who would help reveal truths buried deep within us that we could have never discovered on our on – guiding us through the valley, helping us to trust the process, trust each other and cling tightly to the hope of a miracle.
Because, that’s what we needed…a miracle. A big, fat miracle.
And, if I’m honest, there were many days that I just wasn’t sure that I believed in miracles anymore. And, if I’m really honest, there were some days that I wasn’t sure if I believed in anything or anyone anymore. Fear, doubt, worry, and anxiety overwhelmed me and the temptation to throw a big, fat, pity party instead of hope for a big, fat miracle was a daily battle.
In my true, stubborn, sarcastic and eye-rolling fashion, I talked to God the way my children sometimes talk to me…why?…when?…how much longer?. I needed God to hurry up and make this situation better. I begged him to just make this go away already and give me back my life. But, what I didn’t understand for so long is that God is not in the business of going back or leaving us the same.
He doesn’t want to make us better… He wants to make us new.
We are reminded of this so many times throughout the Old and New Testament. God, over and over, making things new. Isaiah speaks prophetically to the Israeilites as they are in captivity in Babylon, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19). He’s encouraging them to let go of the past in regards to their current captivity, but, more importantly, prophetically pointing them toward the ultimate redemption that would come…Jesus.
The entire New Testament is devoted to the ultimate story of new – Jesus. The birth and life of a savior who cleaned the slate and turned the world upside down. See, sometimes I think we minimize the gravity of what happened when Jesus walked on this earth.
Jesus, who was meek and mild, patient and kind, was also a wrecking ball.
Promising salvation and eternal life.
Healing the sick, raising the dead and giving sight to the blind.
Hanging out with prostitutes and lepers.
Showing the world a new way free from condemnation and promising a world full of hope, expectation and love.
He didn’t come to tidy up the old covenant or make the old better. He came as the new way and through His death made a new covenant.
So, why is new so hard, so difficult for us to understand. Why did it take me so long eight years ago to understand what God was trying to do in my marriage?
Because we humans try to take the old, the past, into new territories.
Jesus addresses this in Matthew 9 when he says, “…neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins”. See, during that time, new wine was poured into goatskins where it would ferment and expand. New wineskins stretch as the wine expands but old wineskins are already stretched and would burst during the fermenting process ruining the wine. The footnotes in my bible state that “Jesus brings a newness that cannot be confined within the old forms”.
See, eight years ago God was trying to give me a new marriage and make me a new person. But, for so long, I tried to put those new things into old wineskins. I was bound by old mindsets, old habits and the need to control every situation. Hurt, un-forgiveness and resentment controlled my idea of what could be and those old wineskins continually cracked. One step forward and two steps back. Round and round I went with God, sometimes childishly arguing and offering a few very valid excuses for my behavior until, one by one, I laid down the old for the new.
And that big, fat miracle came slowly and continues in my marriage and in my life when I surrender my plans, my old mindsets and old habits to the one who makes things new. See, God didn’t want to give me a better marriage or another version of mediocre. He wanted to give me new! If you keep reading in Isaiah 43, the prophet says, “I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”. Only God can take those dry desert lands and bring forth new life.
So, as we start off this first Sunday of the new year I encourage you to surrender. Forget those things in your past – forgive, go to counseling, and do whatever it takes to rid yourself of those old wineskins. Bring Him the old desert wastelands and He will bring new life. New life that cannot be confined to old forms. My friend, Jesus loves you too much to leave you the same. He wants so much more for you than old, worn out, mediocre wineskins. He wants to give you roads in the desert, rivers in the wasteland and big fat miracles that sometimes look like a sassy, four-year old girl that calls you by your first name.
Happy New Year.