By Matt Gordon
I spent some time today talking to a friend. We sat across the room from each other and talked about some things we care about. Pretty regular stuff really. Something I’ve done my whole adult life with some regularity. Only in this scenario each of us had a microphone inches from our faces and every word, breath, and cackle was being recorded.
A friend of mine read a selection from the Bible aloud the other day. It is from Isaiah and is pretty well-known. It talks about thinking about the past and how it shapes the present, but then a single verse challenges the listener to look forward with anticipation and hope and energy.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The Israelites passed from slavery to freedom through mighty, parted Red Sea waters. It was an unforgettable journey. For us who haven’t had quite so epic a journey, it might be like that one really good vacation that every other vacation gets mercilessly compared to. Our present experience and future hopes are always penned in by the comparison to Daytona 2013 or whatever. And let’s be honest, can anything ever live up to Daytona 2013? (Daytona: Where the shirts don’t have sleeves and the Burger Kings stopped caring if you wear shoes or not.)
It is good for mountaintop moments and milestone years to impact us. These might be like a fine piece of art in the museum of our lives. But if we just fixate on that one portrait, moving ever closer to it, we end up missing every other opportunity—not to mention skewing the reality of that portrait as well.
Back to the microphones—check one, check two. COVID confined me to my home. It made events an impossibility, meetings a minefield. One aspect of my job is connecting with people, and people to ideas and possibilities. But, for the season, that is rendered impossible. 2019 was better. Remember that? The parties, the gatherings, the events. Our small groups and hangouts. Everyday a Jay Gatsby throw-down—decadent and soul-giving and miraculous even in the mundane. My entire life has become Daytona 2013 compared to the restriction of now.
Or I can look for the new thing in the now.
In the passage, Christians posit that God is talking about Christ, a different kind of liberator. You’d pass through his “living waters” into an altogether kind of freedom. But not if you were rooted in place, unmoving and unmoved.
But even at a smaller, less prophetic level, the message of the verse can spillover from its primary meaning and be applied to my life. In hope and faith, I can look forward. That means a certain thing to my spirit or soul, but it can circulate from there into the other parts of my being. In this case, into my relationships and connections.
So I have some microphones. I started with one borrowed one, and made some rough recordings. Are they good? Probably not. But are they better than a resentful silence—a dogged determination to stay mad at the only moment in time and place I’ve been given? Yeah, they are better than that.
Now, I have a soundboard in front of me. Do I know what all the dials do? No. It may as well be a time-machine. But I’m learning. I’m tinkering with editing software and webcams and learning how not to use a ring light, in hopes that someday I might stumble into how to use a ring light.
New things populate my world, and what I’m finding out is that this should always be the case. To continue in community is to continue—it is movement, not stagnation through the wilderness to the waters. It is dreaming. Then it is doing. Then it is undoing. Then it is doing something else. It is forever hopeful of what new thing might spring up along this passage that is life, this trek through the wilderness toward new-sprouted streams in the wasteland.
I know what comes at the end, but how does God call me to fill the pages leading there?
I’m not entirely sure, but, microphone in face, I seek the new thing, trusting and hoping.