A few weeks ago my daughters attended their very first sleepover party. My husband Justin and I drove them to their friend Leilah’s house, hauled in their over-packed overnight bags, kissed them on their adorable foreheads, and left.
That’s right. We Left.
If you’ve never had kids maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for me, well, I felt like I’d just walked through a wardrobe into Narnia. Life would forever be different. Awesome different.
I got in the truck with Justin, giggled, and headed out on our first date without a curfew in who knows how long.
We ate at a dive in the back of a bar owned by a James Beard award-winning chef.
We walked the entire footprint of downtown Austin.
We ate a caramel and sea salt ice cream sandwich macaroon.
We drank coffees at 9 and didn’t worry about how long we’d be up.
We drank decaf at 1a.m. at Kirby Lane with pancakes.
And we laughed and talked and held hands.
It was the best date I’ve been on in years.
It wasn’t because my date was different; he was the same guy I’ve been dating for almost 20 years. He was exactly as handsome and charming as he always is. And it wasn’t because we did anything particularly notable—just dinner, coffee, a walk.
The date was extraordinary because we did something new. Not drastically new. Just a little new. A new restaurant. A new place to walk. New dessert. A couple extra hours of together. Just a pinch of new turned our date into something special and exciting.
A while back I spent 365 days wearing the same four outfits. It was an exercise in discipline and re-orientation. I loved it.
Justin loved the results of it—the good heart work it was doing in and through me—but occasionally the repetition got to him.
One day that year I gave in and wore a new shirt—a gray t-shirt—nothing special about it at all. Justin loved it. He said (like five times that day), “You look amazing.”
I asked him later what it was about the shirt he liked so much. He said, “Nothing particular.” He just liked that it was new. He said, “A new outfit frames you differently.”
And that’s the power of new, right?
When we see or experience something old but in a new way we’re jarred into paying attention. We look more closely. We see things we missed in the monotony of repetition.
I remember the first time I saw a colorized image from the 1800s. My husband sent me a set from the civil war. I’d seen dozens of photos from that time. But I’d never seen one like this:
I looked and I didn’t see “history”; I saw men, men like the men I know. They looked like the hipsters who hang out on South Congress in Austin, like the the vendors at the downtown Farmer’s Market, like guys I went to college with.
Because I’d never seen a color picture of a civil war soldier, this image grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me into a better understanding of the past. I realized it was real.
Matthew chapter 13 is full of stories: the parable of the sower, the parable of the weeds, mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure and pearl. At the end of all the story-telling Jesus asks His disciples if they’ve understood. They say yes and Jesus responds with these words:
“Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
He’s saying, basically, “My people will tell the old stories. And they’ll tell new ones, too.”
And that’s not out of character for our old, new-loving, new-making God.
In the Old Testament, the most common command/invitation concerning singing is this: “Sing a new song.”
Why? Perhaps because singing a new song helps us see God with fresh eyes.
And perhaps because the psalmists and prophets keep experiencing God in new ways, seeing new characteristics and new stories that demand new words and new notes.
We like old in church. Old songs. Old rituals.
We love tradition. And that’s good. God loves tradition.
But God likes new, too.
He wants you to experience new things with Him. He wants you to see Him in new ways. He wants to take you to new places, to introduce you to new people and to write new stories of light and love in and through you.
He wants you to sing new songs.
When I went on that date with my husband, that really great date, I kept thinking, “This man is amazing.” He was so funny and thoughtful. I loved the way he took my hand while we walked. I loved his shoes and his mustard yellow laces. I loved the way he shifted his jaw when he was happy. And the way he lifted one eyebrow when he was interested and maybe a little surprised by something I had to say.
I spend every day with Justin. We eat meals together and parent together and ride in his truck to small group. We talk about important things and laugh. We adore each other.
Here I was in this new place, walking down new streets with my same old husband, seeing things in him I’d never noticed, hearing him (really hearing him) and feeling giddy, like a girl on the bus holding a “check yes or no” note.
That’s exactly the way I feel when I do something new with God.
When I find a song I’ve never heard before and I’m paralyzed by God’s beauty.
When I travel to a new place and find new sounds and new smells, when I see new colors and feel new textures, and know all of it grows out of the complexity and creativity of my Creator.
When someone says something surprising as I participate in communion and I put the bread in my mouth and can taste grace like I’ve never tasted it before.
When I decide to invite God into a part of my life I’ve been keeping Him out of like my wallet or my closet or my bed.
When I read my Bible beside the ocean or atop a mountain or on a subway car or next to a hospital bed and suddenly the words seem different, clearer, more alive because of where I am.
A new experience frames God differently.
In the first century Christians were called “people of the way.” People on a journey.
What’s unique about journeying people is that they are perennially and persistently encountering new.
I want that. I want to do new things with God. I want to hear new things from God. I want to go new places with God.
God says to Isaiah, “See I am doing a new thing.”
I want in.