My brother-in-law used to tease us that riding in our family van was like being in the Partridge Family bus. We decided to take that as a compliment, though we prefer to be compared to the von Trapp Family Singers. Whatever the case may be, Bozarths always have some song stuck in our heads. And, what’s stuck in our head comes out our mouth via humming or singing. There are times when one song gets stuck indefinitely. When that happens, my brother Jonathan and I figured out as kids that the best way to get unstuck is to sing Yankee Doodle. For some reason, this tune never gets stuck. So, we can sing it in the interim, while our brain searches for some new song to replace it.
I think King David could relate to the Bozarth family. He was a man of music, a compulsive hummer and songwriter, lyre-player and singer. In fact, before becoming king, he was hired by King Saul for his musical skills – to play and sing and calm Saul’s nerves (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Unfortunately, Saul had a nasty temper and eventually turned against David, throwing spears at him, hunting him down, determined to kill him (1 Samuel 18-20). Let’s just say, not an easy boss to work for. At times like these, when David was on the run and life was turned upside down, the songwriter became stuck. New songs were silenced as the words caught in his throat, choked back by tears or fear or frustration. Humming drifted off, fading to an echo, a mere memory of music written during his days on the hills as a shepherd. David had faced enemies before: lions, bears, even the giant named Goliath. But he’d never faced unjust anger aimed directly, personally, and dangerously at himself. Did he have the physical power to take down King Saul? Yes. But he refused to attack a ruler God had anointed and placed in power (1 Samuel 24-26). So, he hid in caves, trying to decide what to do. David had entered the “muck and mire.” His life was in a pit, and he could not free himself from it. At this point, he had a choice: despair and give up; wriggle and writhe, trying to get free on his own strength; or wait patiently for God to rescue him. The mighty warrior decided to wait. His reward, in the end was a new solid foundation, secure steps without fear, and a new song in his mouth…a song of praise to the God who had saved him (2 Samuel 5-7).
The calligraphy above was painted recently for a friend’s wedding. Though not a passage we typically think of at wedding celebrations, it captures much of the journey that my friend has been on. She walked through the turbulence of having her life turned upside down. She choked on tears of sorrow, fear and frustration in the “pit.” And through it all, she waited patiently for the mighty God who could make life new. This wedding celebration was the culminating note – the crescendo of a new song – as laughter and joy, praise and thanksgiving were on her lips. Walking down the aisle to meet a man who loves and cherishes her, her steps were secure. Like David, she can’t help but hum and sing a song of praise to the God who has made (and continues to make) all things new.
Coming out of one of the coldest, most frozen and snowy winters I’ve experienced in 23 years of living near Chicago, I am ready for spring. Spring is all about NEW. Everything that has been dead and cold begins to come to life! New sunrises in early morning fog. New puddles to drive through, washing old salt away. New green appearing amongst the brown grass and brown branches. A renewed sense of community as neighbors emerge from the winter’s shut-in and basketball games and bicycle races can be seen down the street. Birds feel the change, releasing their joy in warbling, diving, chasing one another through treetops. New songs filter through the rolled-down windows on an afternoon drive. And with each awakening a new sense of hope bubbles up…you find yourself singing in the shower, humming randomly in grocery isles, walking taller…even skipping!…and breathing deeply the fresh, warm air. Now, admittedly, there will be rainy days, chilly nights, muddy/soggy grass. The full explosion of summer is still a ways off. But it’s started…NEW has begun.
A couple of months ago, I completed the above mural for our church. It’s a combination of three verses that center on that theme of NEW. As part of the design, I wanted to emphasize the I Am, not only because this is the name God tells Moses to say when explaining Who sent him. But I wanted to emphasize that God himself is the one who does the hard work of changing us. The cold winters of this world harden us. Our choices and stubborn disobedience leave us wounded, scarred, calloused. God is the surgeon who “will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). We are so dead that He basically has to start over! – New Heart (adjusting our thoughts, emotions, and the decisions we make based off of those), New Spirit (renewing our inmost being), New Creation (our nearest friends and relatives might not recognize us when He’s done…if they do, they’ll notice the change).
I work with the 8th-grade mentoring program at church, and there is a quote in our mentoring packet which says, “God loves you just the way you are; but He loves you too much to leave you as you are.” This work of making us NEW isn’t simply a one-shot deal when we give our lives to Christ. It’s a process…the fancy word is sanctification, which could be defined as: being made more holy, or being set apart for a special purpose. Can God use the broken, the dirty, the messed up? Of course! – He wouldn’t have much to work with otherwise. However, He calls us to be holy…to be like Him. Being too dead and broken to change ourselves, we must turn to Him. It’s a daily thing, a yearly thing, a lifelong process of learning to live, learning to breathe, enjoying the fresh air that is a life walked next to our I Am. It’s preparation for the full explosion to come – the explosion of Heaven where ALL things are always NEW!