Friday, April 20, 2012

The Perpetual Novelty

"God alone is the perpetual novelty."
- Ravi Zacharias

I have a tendency to be impulsive. I get an idea, and then I obsess over that idea until I act upon it or am absolutely prevented from acting upon it. This practice works well when I have a really good idea. The problem is that not all of my ideas are really good.

For example, I once visited a local music store in Tennessee about the same time I started listening to the bluegrass band, Nickel Creek. Inspired by Sara Watkins, I decided that my life was not complete until I owned a fiddle. Katie was not convinced that I needed to purchase a fiddle right at that moment, so I waited and bought one online as soon as we got back home to Alabama. I can't remember which lasted longer after that, playing the fiddle or paying for the fiddle. I still have the instrument though, and maybe one day I'll get the impulse to pick it up again.

I think my impulsiveness often comes from an aversion to routine and a pursuit of novelty. The question "What next?" is my mind's preoccupation of choice. Whether it's a purchase or a career move, I like to think several steps ahead of the game. When used wisely, the question of "what next?" has much visionary value. We need people who are gifted in imagining what can be and then bringing those possibilities about according to God's will. When abused, however, this question becomes a weapon of discontentment wielded against our present reality. Such a pursuit of novelty for its own sake can nullify and even ruin our experience of what God already has given us.

So how do I know if I am asking "what next?" in a wise manner? I will know in whether I am patient or impulsive about the answer. A spirit of patience recognizes that I can plan my ways, but it is God who guides my steps. In patience, I place my faith in the sovereign God of providence, trusting Him to respond to my desires according to His own will. But a spirit of impulsiveness does not consider God or give Him the opportunity to lead. I become impulsive precisely because I am afraid God will not give me what I desire.

There lies a great and tragic irony in the Godless pursuit of my desires. When seeking novelty in things apart from God, I am doubly foolish. I am foolish first for believing that the new thing I am pursuing can satisfy my desire for novelty, since that thing will most certainly lose its novelty once I possess it. Moreover, I am foolish for pursuing anything apart from God, since He alone can satisfy the desires of my heart. God alone can satisfy my desires because all of my desires, however distorted and misdirected, are at their root desires for God. God alone can satisfy my desire for novelty because, as Ravi Zacharias says, God alone is the perpetual novelty.

From God's perspective, of course, God is unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. From our perspective, however, God is the perpetual novelty because throughout eternity we will never exhaust the wonders of who He is and what He has done and what He is still doing. God's mercy is everlasting toward us in Christ, yet the psalmist can be amazed that it is new every morning. The problem then is not the pursuit of novelty itself. The problem is that our pursuit is misdirected away from God rather than toward Him. Consequently, our pursuits produce only futility and ever-diminishing returns. When we seek novelty in anything less than God, we are like C.S. Lewis' imagined child who hops from mud puddle to mud puddle, unaware of the unfathomable possibilities in exploring the sea.

But the perpetual novelty of God means that I have no need to be impulsive. I do not need to force events out of fear of unrealized desires. I do not need to lose what is right in front of me to gain what might be somewhere around the corner. I do not have to own something new to experience something new. I do not even have to ask "what next?" I have only to ask "What is God doing?"

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"
Isaiah 43:19

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