Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks
Only the new can be the best. Or so goes the message that we are constantly receiving through various mediums of media. We are persuaded and convinced to replace something old with something newer, shinier, nicer, better. We’re always being told to upgrade to something else, to move on to something better because there is always something wrong with the old. In order to keep up with the “ins” of society you must be proficient in the newest, trendiest literature, music, and entertainment. Surely vintage is coming back into style, but with a modern twist; it’s not really vintage if it was made in China two months ago.
Even as I write this I know that I have been very guilty of turning my nose up at the suggestion of listening to and more importantly understanding old, outdated, seemingly archaic ideas on faith, society, and culture. I am postmodern by the way and I have enlightened myself to the point where I have done away with such antiquated dribble. I love innovation and novelty just as much as the next person. By nature I am a visionary and an idealist, always seeking for ways to make things better, and immersing myself in the contemporary, innovative ideas of my generation. They excite me and awaken me to unprecedented possibilities, a fresh world. I know I am not alone. In fact, Modern History is characterized by this idea of “progress” and “modernity”; the belief that, we as a society, are always moving forward, making way for the new age of prosperity and a better world. However, much of this “progress” led to destruction as the 20th century witnessed in two World Wars and many accounts of genocide, to name a few examples. Therefore, I think we twenty-some things are really losing out on an important aspect of the human story when we focus solely on the new and contemporary.
For me, this is a large concern in my spiritual walk. I have come to discover that I will most likely disagree with those who are much older than I am; those of earlier generations. I automatically label them as traditional and conservative, both of which tend to be the antithesis of my own label: liberal and non-traditional. So naturally, I don’t even bother to listen to what they have to say. I apply the same attitude towards early church fathers; those men who are revered for their insightful works of literature and sermons. How can these men have any relevant insights into my contemporary life and faith? My history, society, and culture are so different from theirs.
However, truth is timeless. It transcends the differences that exist between times in history and culture. So maybe, even these men have something to teach me and to teach you, if we would only listen. Clement of Rome was a 1st Century writer and an associate of Paul. He had something to teach me about the nature of change and what the life of Christ had to say about it.
Clement of Rome, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, expresses this idea about resurrection in daily life. Clement saw resurrection within nature; the sun rises and then it sets just to be brought back the next day, to be resurrected. This symbolism gave the word “resurrection” a new significance to me, a reader in the 21st Century. Not only is resurrection seen in nature but in the life of Jesus Christ. Not only is resurrection seen in the life of Christ but in our own lives as well; in our history and in our culture. These daily resurrections in our spiritual walks is progress, but not in a linear sense.
In my own life as I have grown I feel like I have moved forward, then I move back some, and then I move forward a little more, and then I take a big step backward. It’s as if I am practicing some spiritual box step without going anywhere in the end. This is the nature of the progression of our faith. We experience a spiritual death (a trial, a cherished belief we must rework, doubt) but God continually shows His faithfulness to us as He did that fateful day when He raised Christ from the grave. We are resurrected, transformed, and made stronger. Throughout our spiritual walk, even as we ripen with age, our beliefs are going to be constantly challenged, for there is resurrection in daily life. Our faith experiences the same death and resurrection of Christ. We die, and then we are reborn. When we confess our sins we die to those habits, and are reborn with a reinvigorated strength and faith. We overcome, we regress, we overcome again.
Let the Future Invite the Past
Our faith is a magical, freestyle, ambiguous dance done for the One who watches over us as we weep and laugh through our steps. To make our dance more sophisticated and intricate we look to others for ideas and inspiration. Let us not cut ourselves short and limit the real potential of our dance because we fail to watch someone else that may be older and slower than our own feet. As someone who prides themselves in being open-minded I tend to be the most myopic one in the room. I encourage you to look towards the wisdom and guidance of those older than yourself without losing the freshness and passion of your youth. We dance together, the traditional and non-traditional, the conservative and the radical, in one grand gesture of love and hope for own Lord and Savior. We are doing this for God, who grants us grace over our own convictions, so let us give all that we could possible give to Him, not affording to ignore those who could greatly enrich our gifts.