n C. S. Lewis’ last book in the Chronicles of Narnia, the “new world” God is preparing is described as “an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”
This expanding quality of the Christian life is based on relationship. Relationships always get broader with depth, not more shallow. The deeper I have explored Christ, the more there is to explore. The new life that salvation makes available
to me is not a narrowing tunnel, but a broadening one . . . so it is still new. God never grows dull, but only more and more novel as I grow in knowledge and intimacy with Him.
Gracious monotony” is the best way I can communicate what God did to my soul as He began reforming me. There were very few things in my life that, by His mercy, did not wind up tasting like a well-used dishrag. I attended church out of social and familial obligation, though I held very little interest or enthusiasm for the message or the institution. I found the system of worship to be heavy on predictability and light on magnetism.
Meanwhile on the secular side, I had moved past some of the romantic trappings of youth and into the grimy world of adulthood. The essence of that life was defined by a kind of social monotony—a spark-less and anticlimactic existence made up of mostly being alive and only rarely of living. It is not that things weren’t enjoyable it bursts and pops, but on a profound level, enjoyments by themselves failed to be high enough mountains to satisfied the hungers of my soul.
By God’s design and grace, my ropes were much longer than the pinnacle of my ascents, so the question persisted, “What do I do with the rest of this?” It was through this gift of gracious monotony that God, beneath my logical radar, had collected dry wood around my heart. Then, with little regard for my selfdecided future plans, He lit the fuse that eventually led to the unexpected inferno within me.
Curiously, I don’t recall the single moment that this awakening took place. Throughout my life, I had heard hundreds of testimonies that all pointed to one glorious moment when Jesus saved the teller’s soul, and I did not doubt any of them. I remember a lengthy season where I was so distraught at the knowledge of who I was and yet so aware of the love and work of Christ inside of me that I cannot pinpoint a single moment of conversion. It became an era of transformation.
While so many salvation accounts I had heard seemed to follow the story line of the Red Sea, I felt more like Moses at the fiery bush. I was not sure what it meant to give up my entire future, yet the warmth, light, and presence of God were more persuasive than anything that my future seemed able to offer. All of the indifference spawned by my own dead understanding of Christianity as a commonplace answer to life’s questions had passed. There was nothing stereotypical or common about what happened in me. The Spirit of God burned up and blew away my shortsighted views regarding the faith. Truly, as Paul told the Corinthian church, “the fresh and new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17 Amp.).
After more than a decade of following Christ, I realize this newness of life is not a thing that “happened,” but something that is “happening.”
Initially I thought of life with Christ basically just like life without Him, only with less sin. Decisions would be made differently, discipline would become a daily pursuit, and immediate pleasure would lose its position in the driver’s seat of my motivations. This was what “saved” people did. And while none of those things were fundamentally wrong, it’s more that they weren’t really the issue. My view of the Christian life was basically that I was being transferred from one correctional facility to another. The view was nicer from my new cell, the warden wasn’t nearly as mean, and the other inmates would hug me and tell me they loved me and were praying for me. But in time, I discovered new life in Christ is less like being put into a renovated version of my old house and more like being released into a new world.
New life, additionally, is not only a better realm to explore, but also comes with the assurance that I am perpetually becoming a better explorer in this realm. Though there is an “already there” aspect to the sanctified position that life in Christ has made possible for me, there is also a “not there yet” quality. This idea of newness is not just a more glorious future to be experienced, but a present reality when I do not act as glorious as my destiny would suggest. It didn’t take long to realize that the holy inferno raging in my heart had competition from foes both internal and external. While old things have indeed passed away, I find that I am apt to attempt to resurrect them when I lose sight of who I truly am in Christ.
I naively assumed that regeneration was something that would immediately cure all my ills and blunt all my quills, but a few morning commutes on the interstate proved that to be a utopian notion God had not promised. Biologically, regeneration refers to being able to regrow body parts lost in battle or in escape. Spiritually, it means no matter the carnage of my life, I will always step out of any situation whole and new because of Christ. I can incur injury without it permanently altering my identity.
All things were made new in me—I can join the chorus of the saints throughout history and confidently testify to this fact. Yet the most profound part about my new life is that it continues to be made new. Every question has not been answered, but each has led to beautiful and unexpected truths. Every battle has not been won, but never have I crawled from the dusty fray having lost anything so vital that the Spirit of God could not replace and restore it. Only in God’s hand is it possible for the expression to be eternally true: “New life never gets old.”