Out with the Old, In with the New

I’m not sure how many of you came up with New Year’s resolutions. I find myself sitting right on the fence – I like the idea of getting rid of old habits and bringing in new ones, but I’m a bit skeptical of the success of these resolutions. I often wonder why January 1st is more significant than March 22nd, the beginning of spring – the start of new growth. Yet somehow a new year seems to signal a new beginning. The older I get, the more aware I am of how hard it is to kick old habits. I have this image of Eustace, from C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, having his dragon skin scraped off by Aslan to become a better self. The scales fall off only with force, as he slowly and somewhat painfully transforms back into a boy, but on the other side of the process, he has ultimately become not only a boy again, but the boy he was always meant to be.

As I think about the start of my year, I’ve had this instinctive desire to study God’s Word – how does God want me to start 2019? I’m tired of making up my own resolutions – ideas that I’ve made for myself to make 2019 the “best year ever.” I’m also tired of my “unique” tendency to overachieve with my goals – setting my goals unrealistically out of reach, and then nearly killing myself to achieve them before finally waving the white flag. I almost always forget to leave room for progress and usually just start trying for my end goal straight off. The whim to run a marathon and then ludicrously start training by running 15 miles straight – followed by several discouraging days as I hobble around my home. I’m guessing that sounds familiar to most of us.

The verse that I seem to continually come back to this January is Matthew 9:17:

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” 

I’m not sure if it is the word “new” that triggered something in my brain, or if it is my inborn need to purge and get rid of the “old”. But something in the wording of the verse speaks to my heart. It makes me feel like it is possible to make new changes in my life, as long as I know which wineskin I put the changes into. The verse states that new wine or “habits” put into old wineskin or “attitudes” will ensure merely temporary change until the old wineskin becomes too brittle, bursting and spilling over, ruining the skin and wine completely. Old wineskins are not malleable and can’t handle the pressure of the new wine.

If new wine is put into new wine skin, however, the wine can bubble and ferment without any negative effect on the wineskin, since it is still malleable. The wineskin then ages with the new wine until the fermentation process is complete. If we think of the new attitude or matured character (wineskin) that is necessary to hold our new habits or behaviours (wine), and how it needs to mature alongside the new wine until completion, we have great hope in lasting transformation. We are not expected to have a mature or aged wineskin to begin change, but rather we need to choose a new attitude/behaviour to begin the process of change – to give change the ability to birth and grow.

What are some “new wines” that we are desiring to implement? We all know that weight loss is probably the most common New Year’s Resolution that people make. For example: I’m not going to snack and I’m going to exercise every day. Goal: to lose weight. But I’m finally beginning to realize that lasting weight loss only truly comes with a lifestyle change. Goal: to be healthy. To be healthy means lifestyle changes – not temporary changes for quick results. For new wine not to burst and spoil, my lifestyle/behaviour/attitudes need to change to give it that chance.

I’m not sure why this example is coming to me, but I keep thinking about marriage as well. There have been many times when I have wanted my marriage to grow and get better. Darryl and I would implement new ideas: way more date nights, way more physical contact, etc. But if my attitude towards Darryl stays the same (complacent, “everything’s fine,” etc.), my marriage does not get better. I must desire change holistically, which can only happen from within from the birth of a new, transformed, renewed mind and attitude. 

A New Year’s Resolution that I have made most years, and one that I would really love to keep this time around, is spending more time in God’s Word. I find it easier during the routine of the school year but find it really hard as soon as I’m on holidays. Holidays often give me time to be aware of the things around me – fresh snow, smiling faces, stars, etc., but I often miss contemplating what is within me – peace, patience, anger, frustration, restoration, etc. I think I keep putting this new wine (a desire to be in His Word) into old wineskins.

So how do we get a hold of those new wineskins? I’m curious, too! For the next little while, we hope to blog about what we are learning and studying. I’m praying for you and hoping with you as the New Year begins, and as we desire new and often necessary changes in our lives. Happy New Year!