When we are young, life is full of new. New words, new tastes, newly discovered fresh and not-so-fresh smells. New dresses on Sunday mornings when the old ones were outgrown. New skills. Letters to be learned, numbers to sequence, then to add, then to multiply. There is so much new early on.
There comes a point when the scales shift and life carries a relatively equal balance of old and new, with little peaks and valleys along the journey. I'm not sure where the summit is for the typical first-world human, but I suspect it is in our teen or young adult years. At some point we bemoan the redundancy of life, if we are lucky. Things get old. Patterns repeat. We follow routines, as tiring as they may be, and thirst for new.
Sometimes New comes like a breath of fresh air. A trip to paradise in the dreariness of winter. Pretty Miss New bats her eyes and beckons us, all fragrant with her new perfume. We follow her with wanderlust and passion, breathing her in, drinking her coolness.
But sometimes Newness bursts through the back door when we are not looking, when we are just out of the shower and not dressed. We pull our towels up in front of us with a high pitched yelp, running back to the closet. But newness creeps in under the closet door while we dress and sometimes, in our hurrying state, we put our clothes on backwards and forget to put socks on under our boots. Then the rest of the day we shift in our uncomfortableness, while New chuckles behind us.
My sister Libby has decided to add some new to her life. She has decided to hire a personal trainer. Joel, her trainer, is such a good young man, very capable, and very kind. The fact that her trainer is Joel is part of why she has a trainer. For years her muscles were dependably able, the definition in her calves and arms visible evidence of the love in her heart. She hefted our mother from her bed to her wheel chair, to the shower to her recliner, back to the wheelchair, into the car, and so on…repeatedly…every single day. When Mom went the way of all living things Libby's muscles became less taxed. Her arms and her legs began to lose their beloved purpose, and it pained her to think that they were only needed to carry her own weight. The change was painful when Mom died. Inside and out, it hurt. Now Lib takes the proverbial bull by the horns and calls to her muscles to wake up. The newness is painful as well.
Our friend Reed dances a daily do-si-do with newness. His self definition shifts almost daily now. He has sold his business, buried his wife, nurtured and advised grieving children, not to mention a very lonely puppy, and it's bulging with new. Last week he spent his last day of work at a company founded by his father. After his father's untimely death, Reed took over as president of the company, leading it through interstate expansion and a recent sale to a large parent company. It is where he has spent his whole professional career. Tomorrow he will not be going to work. And in two months he walks his youngest daughter down the aisle in a pretty white dress. Major foot stomping newness in Reed's world!
The other day Reed came over for dinner. Chatting afterwards, he commented that he had learned something new. (This did not startle any of us). "Did you know," he said, his eyebrows raising as he spoke, "that if you take a chicken breast out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw, and forget that you put it in the fridge to thaw, that chicken will turn very nasty in one week?" We all laughed heartily. "And," he continued, "I am astounded at how much quicker everything gets dirty. It feels like I am doing laundry all the time!"
I pray for Reed, that he will have the wherewithal to hold up under the overwhelming weight he hefts each day. Not only the burden of the heart and brain trying to process loss, but the tasks of daily life. Needful things that have no respect nor patience for the grieving. I pray for Libby, whose heart throbs at the loss of her mother and, too soon after that, our Cindy, her closest friend. I send requests heavenward for our friend Paul and his grieving family. I let my head go to the names of people who loved and lost, whose routines are smothered in new, and I end up praying until the day is old, and I am weary of prayer. And then I pray some more.