“I am about to do a new thing.” -Isaiah 43:19 (NRSV)
This week I share a devotion by Bukola Landis-Aina (She/Her), Executive Director, Q Christian Fellowship
There is such a promise of freedom and renewal in the notion that the Lord is in our midst, doing ”a new thing.” For the original audience of this text, the new thing was God’s imminent deliverance of the people of Israel from their captivity in Babylon so that they could return to their homeland. The writer of Isaiah suggests that this liberation will be even more spectacular than the moment most at the core of Israelite identity—the defeat of Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea so that the people could follow Moses to freedom. This time, God will make a highway from Babylon through the wilderness with rivers of flowing water. Yet, even as these oppressed people must expand their imagination beyond captivity in Babylon, this new Exodus is fundamentally linked to that first Exodus—the journey in which God demonstrated God’s covenant faithfulness and made those who were once considered nothing within the empire into a people identified as chosen.
I have witnessed the God of our many understandings create new and beautiful things in my own life. I could not have imagined the Thanksgiving that I just had 5 years ago. At that time, there was coldness, fear, and toxicity surrounding the interactions with my family. My parents and three siblings did not agree with my marriage, and it was deeply painful to encounter them within that state of rejection. This year, we were fully united around the table, and my brother stayed along with his family in my home. Five years ago, he refused to even meet my wife. So much has changed, as this past week, I entered a room to find my wife and brother jovially chatting and ribbing each other across the dining table, and I thought: only God could have brought this about. What a journey!
But it was still one I would not have chosen.
I struggle with the prior verse which instructs: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” For some of us who have been wronged, abandoned, pushed out, or abused, this is difficult to hear. How can I just forget the former things when apologies remain unspoken and there is no sense of a just reconciliation? Why did reconciliation require the birth of my son and the terminal illness of my father to bring the family back to a place of connection and unity? Honestly, I do not have answers to these questions. I am sure that many of my LGBTQ+ siblings and allies have faced similar challenges, even as we are all called to new and beautiful things emerging from the dust.
How can we expand our imagination beyond the grip of the “former things” without forgetting the lessons those former things taught us?
What I can hope is that the Lord is doing a new thing in our hearts and minds, in our communities, and in our world. I pray for the renewal that comes with a new understanding of injustice and suffering. I pray for God to show up, even as the new thing remains undone. I pray for us to see and perceive God moving, as we grieve our suffering and losses. I thirst for new and better outcomes than what I see in our world on a daily basis. But may we also come to trust in the faithfulness of God and learn the fruits of forgiveness, mercy, and kindness. Without these, changed outcomes alone cannot bring about shalom. This is my prayer for those in our community, which surely includes those who have been harmed and those who have harmed others or themselves. May we grieve the past without being consumed by it.
Lord, help us fix our eyes on the new thing at hand. Amen.