I am thinking about new things. Not things purchased. Things experienced. Like my new cup of tea. Or the light upon my porch. Or the sun climbing above the roof tops, again. Or the new sound of song birds.
The bird song has shifted. In the winter woods, the birdsong rings out. But spring has added her dimension and the woods shows itself anew. A canopy forms on the high tops, and the mid-branches. Now the ring of the birdsong ripples in echoes. The song I listened to throughout the winter has changed with the birthing of leaves.
You and I are new; experience the new. Rising to repeat yesterday, today. Pouring coffee, buttering toast, kissing one another with fresh lips.
Our thoughts freshen. We engage: news feed, a paper (?), television, a text, a protest, an email. Information sits at the throwing wheel of our humanity and continues to spin and shape, mold and make us.
Ideas form against the actions of others. Ideologies emerge as we act and react to one another. This is our contexere, our weaving together that makes culture. From relativism to utilitarianism we move forward, or so it seems, into something new.
And, like the spring wood, our birdsong changes.
But is all this really new? Is it newness, or just the passing of moments into moments, into yet newer moments? This today rises and sets like yesterday. The seasons mark time's passing. But how does time's passing really effect you and me?
For you and I to experience newness something deeper must take place besides the passing of time. We must grow in our vision of today. We see it, yes, but how we see it matters more. If our vision of today remains as it was when we were petulant-college-know-it-alls (as was the case for me!) then time is little more than a dimming, blinding us to the truth of today.
How can we gain this kind of vision?
I sketched some reminders that help me move toward this kind of heavenly vision. They're on my office whiteboard.
1. Don't Forget to Die
To live is to die. Hidden behind the information of the day, the news and its cycle, the shouting, the molding, the hate-mongering, the utilitarian bullying, lies a beauty unreconciled. We cannot resolve it because of its demand upon us: sacrifice.
A father gives up his life for his daughter because of love, but even more base, because he values her life more than his own. A sacrifice bears no moral ambiguity. Tucked into this scandalous act is the moral consideration of valuing something, of holding it up to be sacred.
What do I value more than myself? Certainly my family. What about others? What about the person with whom I disagree with?
2. Recognize Dappled Things
Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem you are probably familiar with titled "Pied Beauty." It is a protest against the tight-fisted Victorian vision of beauty. He presents an expanded vision of beauty. It is a beauty of dappled things.
Patchwork skies, patchwork wings of a finch, patchwork design of fish, the patchwork landscape. You and I, patchwork humans. We are dappled things. The word "pied" in the title signifies duality, like the black and white of the magpie bird.
Beauty is not one sided in God's eyes. It exists in the patchwork collection of life itself.
When I recognize the beauty in contrasts, the beauty in duality, the unity in multiplicity, I gain vision for humanity that extends deeper than the surface. It dives into the humanness of you and me.
3. Shed My Leaves
My woods are filling up with neon-green leaves. The birdsong changes, but so do the trees. The passing and re-emerging of leaves signifies growth. Most of that growth occurs where I can't see it: in the roots.
I love that evergreens should not be disturbed or planted in the summer. Why? Because they are growing. Their roots are reaching out.
The Lord Christ desires growth signified in the renewing of our minds. He is the God of newness, for is making all things new. We should not fear growth. Growth does not signify moving on from held beliefs and virtues. Rather, growth is signified by their graceful application.
When my leaves fall, hopefully I'm not dead. Hopefully my roots are reaching out.
You and I are dappled trees. And I would gladly take an ax for you. But only because my roots are reaching out, gathering the magic of raindrops; heavenly food for an oak not yet grown.
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Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.