New Creation vs New Car!
Steve Brown August 9th, 2010
I just got a new car!
I know, I know, that's not very spiritual, but I'm in that stage where I have to tell someone and you're it. It's a black (befitting the clergy) Honda Accord and I like it a lot.
I generally run cars into the ground, often getting close to 200,000 miles out of them. My old car was a hybrid with 125,000 miles on it. If the batteries go in a hybrid, it can cost up to $4,000. Given that batteries don't last forever and on the advice of a mechanic, I decided that it was time. The new one isn't a hybrid, so the mileage won't be as good as the old one, but it has four cylinders as opposed to the six in the old one, so even that isn't half bad.
Besides, I had milked about all the self-righteousness I could from the hybrid. People were beyond tired of me telling them that I loved our children and the environment (and they didn't). What's the good of a hybrid if you can't be self-righteous about it?
But you know what's so good about a new car (that is, other than the smell)? It's the fresh start. It's giving one's old car problems to someone else and driving away with no problems (at least in the beginning).
You get used to things going wrong with a car and then just learn to live with them. After I had the old one for two weeks, I backed out of my office parking place and hit the front end of a truck. Didn't hurt the truck at all…but there was a big dent in my back bumper. I covered most of the dent with a "Speak Truth to Power" bumper sticker and dealt with it.
Then there was this large scratch I got backing out of my colleague's driveway and hitting their mailbox. (Dr. Kistemaker teaches at the seminary and his wife, Jean, volunteers at Key Life. They were kind and forgiving.) Thankfully, I didn't destroy the mailbox. I righted the mailbox and got some touch-up paint for the scratch. While you could still see the scratch, it was better, and I learned to live with it.
The side mirror was loose. The handle on the console box was broken. The cruise control didn't work right. The temperature gauge was always wrong by about ten degrees. The air conditioning still worked, but I was sweating more. And the radio speakers didn't have the clarity they once had.
But one learns to live with it. Like a lot of things in life (if you're an old guy, there are a lot of them), you learn to live with them and keep on trucking or…uh…driving.
My new car got me to thinking about new things. Being spiritual and all, I thought about 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
Sometimes, I think, we forget the incredible freshness and joy of being a new creation. My old car was functional. Cars have a purpose, to get you from one place to another. The old car did that. Life can be functional too. A comma on a gravestone between the birthday and the death-day says everything that is needful. It can be functional in the same way an old car is functional.
Matthew Arnold wrote in his poem, Rugby Chapel:
Most men eddy about
Here and there – eat and drink,
Chatter and love and hate,
Gather and squander, are raised
Aloft, are hurl`d in the dust,
Striving blindly, achieving
Nothing; and then they die -
Perish; – and no one asks
Who or what they have been,
More than he asks what waves,
In the moonlit solitudes mild
Of the midmost Ocean, have swell`d,
Foam`d for a moment, and gone.
Jesus said in John 10 that he came to give us life-not just functional life where one is born in one hospital and dies in another, but "abundant" life. That life (new creation life) is one of pain (with a purpose), joy (with tears), and freedom to experience both with a depth and authenticity connected to a world in which God is in control. It is a world in which God is working out his purposes in a grand and glorious plan that will be incredibly exciting in the final chapter. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).
There is something else good about a new car, to wit, it's clean. I'm not a slob, but after driving around in a car for five years, there are some stains that simply won't come out. One learns to live with those too. Both the new car and the new creation are clean. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
I got a critical email this past week from someone irritated by my comment about sin being a gift from God (when you know it) and obedience a dangerous place (when you know that). Frankly, his underwear was on too tight. But now that I think about it, he did have a point. Sin really isn't the gift. It's the way we get to the good part.Forgiveness is the gift.
I've been reading Pat Conroy's novel, Beach Music. It is about incredible pain…and forgiveness. The leading character's wife takes her life and the book is about the implications flowing from that pain. Until I read his dedication, I wondered how Conroy could write with such passion and understanding of suicide. He dedicated his book to his three "wonderful and irreplaceable" brothers ("loyalists and life-sharers") and "our hurt brother and lost boy" who took his life.
The leading character says of his wife and her suicide, "Shyla was that rarest of suicides…she was forgiven as instantly as she was missed."
The new car and the new creation are clean. The car will get dirty, but the new creation never will. I am forgiven instantly. But more than that and different from Shyla, I'll be remembered, loved and acceptable forever.
The "forever" thing is important. My new car won't stay new. It will get old and one of us (the new car or me) will wear out and die.
God said, "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind" (Isaiah 65:17). Jesus promised the thief crucified alongside him that the thief would be in paradise. And Revelation 2:17 talks about the "new name" we'll have in heaven.
The new creation starts now and moves from here to there, from earth to heaven, from time to eternity. None of us is altogether pleased with the eternity side of the new creation. ("The good news is that there is golf in heaven. The bad news is that you have a tee time on Thursday.")
I'm writing this in the mountains of North Carolina. We're here with our daughters, their husbands and the granddaughters. I made the mistake of telling my sons-in-laws what I was writing, that I had this idea to compare the "new creation" to a new car.
That was a mistake.
They started joking about the things that were good about an old car and not so good about a new one. It was an effort, I suppose, to keep me from the sin of pride as it relates to the new car. They talked about the computer system that my "bubba" mechanic wouldn't understand, the learning curve of finding the right controls and getting killed in the process of mistaking the windshield wiper control for the cruse control, and the first scratch on the new car with all the "cussing and spitting" to follow, etc.
I almost wanted my old car back.
But not quite.
Do you remember the old song, This Old House, written by Stuart Hamblen in the fifties? Some of the lyrics:
Now my old hound dog lies asleeping
He don't know I'm gonna leave
Else he'd wake up by the fireplace
And he'd sit there, howl and grieve
But my hunting days are over
I ain't gonna hunt the 'coon no more
Gabriel done brought in chariot
When the wind blew down the door.
I might write a song, This Old Car.
Nah, I don't have time.
I have to go out and wax my new car.
This entry was posted on Monday, August 9th, 2010 at 10:05 am and is filed under Beach Music, Christianity, Death, Eternity, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Jesus, Matthew Arnold, New Cars, New Creation, Pat Conroy, Religion & Spirituality, Rugby Chapel, Steve Brown, Steve Brown Etc., Stuart Hamblen, The Old White Guy, This Old House. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.