Repairing a Car while Driving.
“If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old life has passed away and the new life has begun.” This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is from I Corinthians 5:17. It seems particularly appropriate at the beginning of a New Year when it seems that everyone (including myself) tries to start the new year out with a resolution to change some things in their life. There are so many things wrong with me. For starters, I need to eat healthier, exercise more, finish house projects, get rid of all my clutter, and call my mother! All of this and more needs to be done while I reduce my stress and become more loving toward the people who get on my nerves!
It seems every year no matter how hard I try, that my New Year Resolutions always fail. For a couple weeks or even a month, I will have some success at not eating so much fast food or finding the time to work out. But then something happens and my schedule changes or I catch a virus or there is some kind of crisis and the next thing I know I am back to the same old habits that I was stuck in before. It is like I am trying really hard to fix my car while I am driving it down the highway at 70 mph. With one hand on the steering wheel and one foot on the gas, I am also timing quick ducks down under the dashboard trying to work on my wiring or to figure out where there is a short in the fuse box. It doesn’t take very long for this sort of zany and futile experiment to dramatically fail or for me to give up in frustration. There has to be a better way.
This Christmas, I bought a little gift for myself. It is a new translation of the Bible that I found when I was researching for our last Benefit Concert with Elden Kelley for Allegan High School Tiger Tales. The translation is called, “The Voice”. At first glance, it takes some astonishing liberties with the texts. Right in the middle of a Bible passage, it will add a few clarifying words or sentences. (Very much like adding verses!) And at the beginnings of many chapters it adds introductory paragraphs to explain what is going on in that section. At first, I was annoyed with it because it was so different, but when I started working with it for a while, I found that I really liked it.
This is what The Voice Translation has down for I Cor. 5:16-18:
16 Because of all that God has done, we now have a new perspective. We used to show regard for people based on worldly standards and interests. No longer. We used to think of the Anointed the same way. No longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun! 18 All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed. And He has given us the same mission, the ministry of reconciliation, to bring others back to Him.
And the Voice introduction for chapter 5 is this:
In chapter 3, Paul explains how the Spirit transforms believers so they are conformed to the image of Jesus. He now clarifies that this change means believers embody Jesus’ death through suffering and participate in His present, risen life. This life is ultimately experienced through the resurrection of the body in the future, but it also consists of an inward renewal in the midst of the challenges and troubles of daily existence. Our hope is, therefore, not a release from our bodies but a resurrection of our bodies so that the life inside us now will show outside as well. While we still suffer, this hope of bodily resurrection is a matter of faith.
What this passage says to me is that instead of me trying to change my life while living it, (repairing my car while driving it) that instead I need to allow the Holy Spirit to transform me as the driver. I need to stop trying to fix all this stuff in my life while going 70 mph with my to do list streaming out the window. I need to let the Holy Spirit convince me to pull off my life road for 5 or 10 minutes at a time and to simply sit and rest in God’s presence in prayer. I need to seek God’s direction for my life instead of proudly wandering around in circles fooling myself that I am actually getting somewhere. While of course the road ahead of us is going to be full of potholes and broken pavement (we do still live in Michigan), I can slow down, avoid the worst of it and even fill my car with people who are on the same journey going to the same destination.
And all of those repairs that I need in my life? All of those New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more and to reduce my stress? I wish they were as infrequent a fix as needing to take my car to a repair shop for a new transmission. But the truth is that they are more like filling my tank up with gas and changing the oil. I just need to stop my driving and do them, regularly. –I can’t be on the move down the highway and parked at the gas station at the same time, just like I can’t change my oil while changing lanes.
If I can let the Holy Spirit transform me as the driver of my life, no matter what sort of road conditions or weather comes up, I know that I can trust God to guide me to make the right decisions every day. And that ultimately, by doing so, I am really going to be able to get somewhere good!