the life and times of a twenty year old designer

an inescapable newness

with one comment

i’m a multi-sensory sort of person – so i’m going to highly recommend you open this track up and play it while you read. mr. tim coons has a mighty fine take on newness.

it’s the end of the second day of 2014. like most folks of my generation, i’m sitting here listening to death cab for cutie and contemplating the year that’s passed and the year to come (and what a magnificent album transatlanticism was and still is – can’t believe it turned ten this year!)  on the internet, this is a late-game new year’s post. i’ve seen a lot of countdown type posts as we closed out 2013, and a lot of posts yesterday – some reflecting back, some looking forward. but the newness of 2014 seems to (rather lamentably) become less fashionable day by day.

in thinking about writing, there’s a lot i could say to you. a reflection on 2013 would no doubt be a gratitude-filled lovefest. the word of the year was staying. and what a powerful, deepening, angsting, growing, loving season of staying it has been. for the first time in years and years, i spent all twelve months working the same job, serving at the same church, and living with the same people. that’ll grow a person.

an anticipatory look at 2014 would no doubt be characterized by my prediction that this will be a year of going. that word instills in me a thrilling mix of excitement and trepidation, a call to begin to step out in faith in some radically practical ways. for the first time years and years, i’m preparing to move outside the state and culture where i was born and raised, take first steps to a radical career shift, and say a mess of heartbreaking goodbyes all at once. i’m betting that’ll grow a person too.

and yet, somehow, both of these posts would speak of newness. the quiet, beautiful, aching day-to-day newness of staying. the exciting, terrifying, surprising newness of going. when we write at this time of year, in our countdowns and memories and lists, aren’t we writing to celebrate what was new and notable about the year that has passed? to remind ourselves that yes, new things happend, yes, they mattered, and yes, those resolutions from jan 1 2013 deepened and ripened into some beautifully unexpected fruits, even if they weren’t carried out perfectly. and of course, when we write for next year, we’re writing as if to say that no matter what age or milestone we’ve hit in the last year, we’re not done expecting newness. even if we’ve finally done the thing, accomplished the goal, have a new degree or car or house or relationship or achieved whatever that dream was that we’ve always wanted. even if all of those things have happened, we’re still somewhat restlessly looking for something new, to know that our story hasn’t stalled out.

our culture is haunted by a post-christmas emptiness. retailers are struggling to keep up business that have been driven since thanksgiving by promising to provide products that resolve relationships, provide for needs we didn’t know we had, and answer our deepest desires. and on december 26, we are often surprised to discover that our hearts are still as empty as the pile of boxes and bows and tissue paper that’s been saved meticulously to perpetuate next year’s reeenactment of the same traditions. 

so, when we halfheartedly tighten our belts and deepen our resolves and dare to dream a little bigger, are we acknowledging the failure of our christmas and new year’s traditions to renew us properly? because in these twelve days of christmas, after an advent season where the pain of longing was acutely felt, i’m beginning to realize that god has been into newness for much longer than we have.

at a point in history where nothing else was going right for the people of god, he got down and dirty and messy and creative and gave us an entirely new way to experience his presence. no longer preserved in the inner sanctum for the most thoroughly purified priests, he sent his own son to be born to one of us, to grow up with us, to serve us and heal us and live daily with us, die our death, and resurrect the only hope of a truly new life.

and if christmas is really the beginning of something new and remarkable, then the emptiness that haunts us has no seat in our hearts. and we are invited into a resolution much more important than the annual standards of a gym commitment that peters out once life gets busy or a resolve to read through the bible in a year that never seems to make it past leviticus. because we who have for an age been singing o come, o come, emmanuel, expecting a warrior king to come to our rescue, have instead been given a baby born in a humble town who never became more than a carpenter and itinerant preacher. and somehow, in that quietly radical newness, he redeemed us all back to himself. how. is. that. for. newness.

the holiness of new year’s eve and a season of resolution is that after seeing christ’s commitment to newness, we are invited to do the same. emmanuel means “god with us”, after all. only fittng that he should invite us to join in. this first spark, the reminder that unto us a child has been born, and that god works in ways that are so new that they are foolishness to the eyes of man, helps us to realize the need for newness even after all of the presents have been given. and in a proper celebration of the new year, we commit to once again join in the redemptive work. we acknowledge that, just maybe, there is more to learn. just maybe, there are relationships that deserve to be begun and sustained and redeemed with honor. just maybe, our brothers and sisters need our prayers more than our self-righteous vitriol. just maybe, god still chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong. and just maybe, this newness will encompass more than the strength of our resolve – maybe it will seep into every corner of our hearts and through christ in us, everything will truly be made new.

so sometimes, for me, newness will mean going, sometimes it will mean staying. sometimes it will mean the hard work of keeping in touch across distance, sometimes it will mean the harder work of letting go and making space for change. sometimes it will mean joyous redemption, sometimes it will be the quiet stillness of a broken heart. but as my heart swings from the surprising announcement of christmas through new year’s invitation, i’ll admit that although newness sounds like work and terror and surprise and change, it also seems the only way to open up to a god who has never stopped creating. here’s to living in gratitude for the surprise of christmas and in commitment to participate in the continuing redemption of the new year. that’s a reflection i’ll ponder for years, and a resolution i’ll always be working on.  isn’t it just like him to have has given us an inescapable newness that is equal parts gift and invitation?

amen to that, and happy january, y’all. 



Written by Taylor Webster

January 2, 2014 at 10:52 pm

One Response

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  1. interesting you talked about the mess 🙂 much love to you. 🙂


    January 3, 2014 at 3:59 am

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