Making All Things New

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by Luke Hawley

When my kids leave for school in the morning, I tell them, “Be kind and curious.”

They roll their eyes and say, “We know, Dad,” and I take that to mean that they’ve heard me and I’m annoying in the way that maybe only dads can be. But it’s important advice for me to give—and for me to remember. It is, I think, a distillation of the Greatest Commandment—be kind: love God and your neighbors—and the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism—“What is the chief end of man?” Be curious: Glorify God and enjoy him forever.

I’ve been thinking about Revelation 21:5. The phrase shifts a bit depending on the translation, but I like the progressive form of the verb—making, as opposed to make. “Behold, I am making all things new.” I’m not a theologian but it occurs to me that there might be a difference between conjuring things up as brand new and continually making things new. I’m interested in a reading that interprets making all things new as the progress of redemptive and reconciliatory work.

I bought a 1974 Super Beetle during finals week. It came with an extra door, an extra backseat, and an extra engine—though neither of them is currently running (here, the progressive tense is full of hope, too). My wife, Sarah, calls it her dream car, my mechanic neighbor calls it a dumb idea, one of colleagues calls it therapy. It’s a little bit of all those things, I suppose. But I like to think of it as part of my ministry of reconciliation.

My daughter, Eden, a second grader, came home from a play date this past weekend talking about houses. Her friend lives south of where we do in the newer part of town, and she was thinking about the size and the newness of all the houses over there compared to our neighborhood. Our house was a project when we bought it three years ago—my dad and I installed a bathroom in the two weeks between closing and the end of our rental lease so that we could move in. It’s slowly coming around—it’s all one color on the outside now, it’s got flooring in every room and, after rejoisting the kitchen last summer (end-of-semester therapy again) most of those floors are fairly level at this point.

I wasn’t present for the conversation about southside houses with Eden, but Sarah recapped their discussion about how different people like different houses and we preferred the old ones for their character—and because you can make them your own when you have to replace stuff, something that would be wasteful on a new house. It is a little bit of all those things, I suppose. And it’s a little bit of the ministry of reconciliation, too.

This is not to say that my work is always good. I can’t cut baseboard to fit the corners of this house (either because I’m awful at mitering or the corners aren’t true). I wrecked one of the four heads on the two engines as I was stripping them down and the jury is still out on if the Beetle will ever run. And that’s just the work I do—as a person, I’m in need of a whole outfit of reconciling forces to lend a hand in the making of me. Dreams of what my life might look like, dumb ideas, therapy, eye rolls from my kids, encouragement from my wife, kindness and curiosity from my community: a little bit of a whole lot of things intertwined in the process of making all things—myself included–new.

Luke Hawley lives in Sioux Center, Iowa, where, in addition to tinkering with an old VW, fixing up his house, and fronting a band (The Ruralists—www.fullyruralized.com), he teaches writing at Dordt College. His collection of short stories, The Northwoods Hymnal, received a 2014 Nebraska Book Award.

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