Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Wineskin Principle

It's tough when things change. Most of us understand this. What we don't bargain for is how difficult it is when things get better.

What's up with that?

When things start looking up, we start looking around. We take our eyes off what we've been looking toward and set them on the new life developing all around us. There's so much to look at, so much to take in. A new splash of color over here. A new opportunity over there. Bright skies and sunny days that make the shadows seem to dance on what once was just a yard.

Sounds like heaven, right? Who wouldn't want something to look around at?

The problem is that inevitably when we start looking around, we come across a mirror. Eye-to-eye, we see that while things may change, we haven't. I am still I, you are still you. We are still who we were, just in a prettier picture. Crap.

We have the same depravity in our hearts. The same worries, the same fears. We have the same insecurities. For all the beauty developing around us, there's something still powerfully plain about who we are.

That's hard. We like to think that as things change, so do we. We like to think that if we surround ourselves with beauty, we will be beautiful. If we make all things new, we shall be new. But that's where we've missed what's really at work. Because it's true - we make all things new. When things start looking up, it's usually because we've invested in them. We're working to make new things happen. We've changed something that allows us to see something new or do something new or have something new.

In the same way, we have to invest in ourselves if we hope to be new. We'll never change by changing the things around us; we can only change by doing the work in our own hearts.

Most of us are dissatisfied when things change for the better, and it is for this very reason. It is because the shadows are dancing in the light of a bright new world and then one day, we realize we are the shadows. Everything is new except us. Everything is changing except us.

I call it the Wineskin Principle, based, of course, on the Biblical caution that you can't put new wine into old wineskins; both are sure to break.

And indeed, that's what happens. We surround ourselves with new, only to find that we are old. This necessarily breaks us. It sends us deeper into our selves, looking for that thing that's holding us back. It drives us harder toward God, longing for resolution to the ache. This thing, this "new," we hoped would answer us has only exposed us and all the broken things we have in our hearts comes pouring out because we simply cannot hold it in any longer.

And all that new? If we're not careful, we can start to resent it. We can start to see it for what it is - just a pretty picture. Just a false hope.

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. New is such a blessed thing; it is the evidence that our Creator is still creating. It reminds us of who God is, whether it is He who has orchestrated the new or we who have initiated it. We were made in the image of the Creator to create, as well. New is so blessed. 

We just have to be aware of the dangers and be disciplined about it. We have to take our new wine and let it inspire us to grow new skin, a new wineskin. We have to look at the new for what it is - blessed and good - and let it encourage us to be blessed and good, as well. Let it make us want to be new.

Because we want to make the shadows dance, too.

It doesn't have to be this way, but it has to be this way. The transformation of our lives and our hearts has to start with new wine. I'll tell you why tomorrow.

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