“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 44:18-19)
Medical doctors inform us that our long term memory is the last thing to go as we age. We will find ourselves being able to remember events from when we were 5 years old or younger, while we may not be able to remember where we laid our house keys. Yet, being able to remember old things, while forgetting new things is a spiritual handicap, if we expect God to do a new thing in us. We must first provide God with a clean slate, on which God can draw a new path for our lives that will cover us whether we journey through the wilderness or through the desert. When it comes to race, we have all been victimized, some directly and some indirectly. We have all had “wilderness” experiences and times when we’ve felt like we were in the desert. Some of us have felt the pangs of racism through evil glances or being disenfranchised from use of public education and spaces. Those who were not on the receiving end of racism have been vicariously excluded because they have missed opportunities to experience the richness of diversity. God created a rainbow not only after the 40 day deluge that Noah escaped, but God created a rainbow when he created mankind. We were all created equal, though through the sin of racism we all have not been afforded equal rights and equal opportunities. Not just in our schools and communities, but also sadly in the church.
Many of us long to experience God’s beloved community. Many of us are tired of wandering in the wilderness or drying out in the desert. We long for the new thing. Our challenge is how to overcome many negative experiences which may be more long term than short term. And so, we struggle with getting our minds to forget. God is the only one who can help us overcome this challenge. Because God created each one of us and gave us our minds, only God is able to clean up our memories, and prepare us for something new.
Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, understood that the only way that the children of Israel would progress would be to stop living in the past. They needed to forget about what they had lost through Babylonian exile, and to look forward to what God had promised. It was not that God wanted them to forget all of his mighty acts and the miracles that he had wrought for them, but God wanted them to not be so focused on the past, that they could not see what he was doing in the present. As we strive to be ambassadors of reconciliation, God is asking us to forget about how things used to be or have always been and reach for the new thing that God wants to do. Reach for the new way, the water in our dry places, a body of believers that embraces everyone as one of God’s children.
Reverend Renee Williams-Thomas