22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
One of the most amazing things about our God is that He’s eternal. He exists somehow outside of our understanding of time, beyond the line of it that we perceive. We can understand the “unchanging” aspect of His nature best when we realize that change requires time, and He is not subject to it. Now, our perception of Him can change. Our understanding. That can evolve and grow over time, as we experience more and contemplate more. But God Himself remains unhindered by time. Eternal.
Perhaps this is also how His love can be unceasing. How His mercies can be new every morning. They are new…and yet older than anyone. As is everything else about our Lord.
Several months ago I came across a discussion about a current movement among women in the church, women whose message seems bound up in the idea that they’ve discovered something their mothers and grandmothers didn’t know about God. Okay…understanding can certainly evolve over time, so maybe. Until you ask those mothers and grandmothers, who look at these young women like they’re crazy and say, “Well of course. We’ve always known that. Weren’t you listening?”
On the one hand, this sort of example makes me shake my head in dismay–why can’t we just learn from those who come before without thinking we’ve grown beyond them, that we’re better, more faithful, closer to Him than they could have been? It’s really kind of strange–we look to the first century church for so much wisdom and so many examples…but many people also just dismiss those early church fathers out of hand, unless their words were canonized in the Bible. Not named Paul, James, John, or Peter? Sorry, dude. Not interested.
And there’s still something relevant to this idea of “new knowledge.” It is new. New every morning, like His mercies. It’s new to us. We get to discover it every day, every year, every generation. More, we must discover it anew, for ourselves. We have to find that thing that makes us go “Aha!” and internalize it. That thing that makes the faith ours, not just theirs.
There’s truth there. But there’s opportunity for deception too. Because we need to understand what that possessive pronoun means. It’s ours, not just theirs…but NOT “ours, so not theirs.”
See the distinction?
Faith, Christianity, Truth itself is not like a shoe. One person owning it doesn’t mean another can’t. It’s more like…a planet. We can all live here. There’s room. We can occupy different parts, we can travel around, seeking to understand. One person can study one aspect, another a different one. It’s big enough, mysterious enough to accommodate all our curiosity.
But let’s not fall into the trap of saying, “Oh, no, you’re so wrong to describe it as mountains. Clearly it’s plains. God wouldn’t have done that.” Or, to go back to my original example, “Look at this waterfall I’ve discovered, that’s been completely unknown until now!” (And it turns out to be Niagara Falls.)
The faith is new every morning. Every generation. But it is also–MUST also be eternal. Otherwise, why would it have survived this long? The Truth we discover today is the same Truth Jesus preached. The same Truth that founded the Church. The same Truth that led Christians onward before there was even a Bible compiled. The same Truth people have been contemplating and writing about and preaching about all these centuries.
We need to learn anew each day what those before us have already learned. We can follow their examples, we can build on their work. We can discover new facets…but chances are, if you pick up a few ancient works, you’ll find those same facets already explored. Because He is new every morning–always relevant, always discoverable, so vast we’ll never comprehend all of Him–but He is also eternal. Unchanging. The same today as at the dawn of time.
He is new every day for us. But let’s remember He was new every day, in the same way, for them. For all who have come before, and for all who come after. Our faith is ours, but we don’t own it. If anything, it ought to own us.