“I am about to do 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 43:19
When the calendar turns from December to January and therefore from 2011 to 2012, newness comes into our lives. We learn to write a new year on our checks (or online bill pay?). We take down the lights of Christmas, only to replace them with the darkness of winter only gradually dawning into spring.
We begin a new year with new hopes, often called “resolutions,” which quickly fade like a flower which pokes its head out in the sunlight only to find the cold wind of winter. Shannon and I started the new year with a new diet (though it is one we have tried before.) You may have seen our longing looks during the lasagna dinner when we sat with our salads unable to consume the wonderful, comforting carbohydrates. (I salivate even at the thought of sugar and white flour.) There are times when both of us have “cheated,” that is gone back to our old ways and broken the new ones. But we persist, in hopes of seeing results and joyously stepping on the scale that we now dread.
Though we are always mindful that God’s time is not measured in our time, the changing of the years reminds that God is doing something new in our midst. The prophet Isaiah, writing to a Jewish community in exile in Babylon and far from home, preaches to them that God has something in mind for them, something good that will spring forth. A way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert sounds like water to a man parched of thirst both to them and to us. We long for something new, something that brings vitality and evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. We long to rid ourselves of the worry and fear we have about the future, and instead go forward in faith and confidence. We hope that God is doing a new thing, even as we wonder if it is so.
To which Isaiah responds: “Do you not perceive it?” The question is not if God is doing something new, something good, something life-giving. The question assumes that. God is doing a new thing. The question is whether or not we perceive it. Do we see God at work? Do we hear the good news being proclaimed to us and to the world? Do we feel the Spirit moving in and through and around us?
And if we do, how will we respond? Starting the new thing is relatively straightforward. But persisting and not “cheating” and going back to the old way, that is harder. Much harder. To do that, to respond with faith, confidence, and persistence will require a healthy dose of God’s grace. So in this new year, look out for what God is doing anew and pray for the persistence to respond with joy.