New Creation

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Photo by Jamie Sutter

I love New Year’s Eve. It is one of my absolute favorite times of year. Cycles, seasons, fresh beginnings all give me a wave of motivation I normally cannot claim. Whether it’s the new year, clean sheets, or a new spiral notebook, I love that feeling of brand new potential.

When I was five years old I went to a church service where an authoritative white man talked about the importance of asking Jesus into your heart. He seemed to be telling me to obey something, and being the easily frightened child I was I did as I was told. However up to this point the most important thing I’d ever been part of was getting a library card, and that had to be renewed every year. So on my sixth and seventh birthdays I re-asked Jesus into my heart. I renewed my salvation. By the time my eighth year rolled around I think I had stopped believing in Jesus at all so I was fine with letting it expire.

At fifteen years old, through the influence of a friend who is still one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known, I began attending the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The people were beautiful, their investment in me was gigantic, and I quickly fell in love with this Savior of theirs. About a year later I had begun to transition to a different church, a small nondenominational charismatic congregation. I celebrated my “one year Jesus birthday” with Mormons and other Christians all together. I continued to have little parties for several years after that, but today I can tell you is that I think it was in January.

Since that time I have found myself before countless altars weeping over sin, over brokenness in and around me, over the general sense I always had of not being good enough. I was a step-kid in God’s kingdom, one of the dogs allowed to sniff out crumbs at the feet of the PKs, children’s ministry helpers, and worship singers. I had no claims to goodness, talents, or redemption apart from Christ; everyone else seemed to have that on top of other great things they had to contribute. Jesus was necessary for them, but almost as a nicety. So I would beg Jesus to always stay with me, to keep seeing the good in me I was sure no one else could. I felt I had a toe in the kingdom and had to work very hard to keep it there.

As I matured in understanding, and in general, I began to realize that my position is not nearly so tenuous. You could quote a hundred verses here about not living in fear and all that jazz, but those truths never penetrated the darker truth at my core that I was not worthy and barely welcome in God’s family. I believed far more in my depravity than I did in redemption. I’ve often wished Christians had confession. I know we tease about teens getting re-saved every year at camp, but so many times in my life I have wished I could once again experience that sense of really getting that Jesus loved and saved me like that very first time.

But there was this Chinese symbol that had followed me around for years. I first saw it while part of a youth ministry internship in Colorado Springs called Rock the Nations. We had a sweatshirt we sold at our events with this symbol in the center of a white circle on a blue background. Underneath it had 2COR517 in a funky script. It’s referencing a verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (see it now? :)):

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.”

The Chinese symbol is the phrase “new creature” translated in the Chinese Bible.

A friend back home in Pekin fell in love with the symbol and the idea behind it. His dad even worked it into the design of a guitar he built. It was the most beautiful instrument I’ve ever seen, by the way. Years after the internship was over I still wore the sweatshirt, often doodling that one symbol in Bible margins and on journal pages. So much communicated in such a small space. What I was – the darkness in me, the broken household, the sin – has passed away. Something new has come. I am something new. I am a new creature, a new creation. Jesus came to make all things new. That means me.

Over time I’ve realized that this new-making doesn’t disregard who I was. It calls out the beautiful, the godly, the worthwhile in all the raw materials that got jacked up by sin and fallen-ness. It retains all that was right when He first created me. But He goes a step further. He creates new things in and through me. Thoughts. Images. Words. Expressions of love and grace. I am being forever renewed, and forever remade. I never have to fear drowning in the mire of this world, or even of my own sinful self. He has lifted me out of it, washed me clean, and is walking alongside me on a pathway to ever new discovery and transformation. I don’t understand a love that cherishes and changes all at the same time. But I’m glad it’s there anyway. So I asked my Chinese friend to verify the design, and the tattoo artist copied it straight from my shirt. So my chest and a guitar out there somewhere are branded with the same image.

This symbol is a constant reminder of what Jesus has already made me, what He continues to make me, and that ultimately the work is His to do. See, I am a new creation. Pressure’s off. All I need to be concerned with is keeping in step with Him. That beautiful Jew will take care of the rest.

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