Doing a New Thing

 “Remember not the former things nor consider the things of old.
 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

--Isaiah 43:18-19, Revised Standard Version

The message of Isaiah 43: 18-19 is one we need to hear right now, but perhaps it is one we struggle to believe in as God boldly promises, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” This good news can be challenging to hear and understand when facing transition, uncertainty, loss, and grief. Sometimes being able to perceive and receive the ways God is doing a new thing requires us to let go of what was and may never be again.

Several years ago, I went through a season of transition and letting go, marked by a dining room set. The long and short of it was that my husband and I had taken new positions and were moving into temporary housing, and the reality of not living under the same roof with our girls was hitting me hard. Our family was facing a great deal of change. In response, I desperately tried to hold on to “former things”—particularly a dining room set.

It was a gorgeous Amish-made set with a table, eight chairs, and a china hutch. My grandmother wanted me to have it and pass it down to my girls. I spent too much time and energy obsessing about the dining room set.  Could I find a place with a space big enough to accommodate it? Could I find a place to store it?  Selling it felt out of the question because I had made that dining room set mean something more than it was.

That dining room set represented family traditions, holidays, and my grandmother.

It also represented the traditions and holidays I wanted to continue and create the kind of grandmother I wanted to be (even though I didn’t and still don’t have grandchildren).  I had made that dining room set mean much more than it was. I had convinced myself that if I did not have that dining room set in my house, I could not create a sense of family the way my grandmother had.

Yet, again after much prayer and discernment, I realized it would be best to let it go.

I realized that the dining room set was only furniture. It had no special mystical powers. What my grandmother probably hoped for me in wanting to give it to me in the first place was that I would experience the joy of bringing family together as she did.

Ultimately, I didn’t sell the dining room set; instead, I had an opportunity to give it to a family that had lost everything in a fire.  I don’t know if they still have it, and it doesn’t matter.

And the funny thing was, as soon as I gave it away, I could let go of all the things preoccupying my mind and energy. I began to come to terms with the transitions in my life and what that meant.

I had to grieve the people I had lost and a time in my life that had passed and would never be again. I also had to let go of what I thought should be in the future.  I had no control over what would be, but I did have control over how I chose to accept and enjoy what was. It didn’t matter what table my family gathered around; I was just happy we were together. Only through my letting go did I begin to understand what was fleeting and what was lasting. And only through this understanding was I able to perceive and receive how God was doing a new thing.

Friends, God is doing a new thing in your life and the Church. Yet, like the Israelites, we need to hear the prophet Isaiah’s reminder that God is calling upon us to “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.” The Lord is saying to you and me, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” May we see, understand, and rejoice in this good news.

Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister