“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.

A New Thing – what does that mean? Isn’t there nothing new under the sun? I must believe it though, I must believe it, even if my heart is skeptical, even though my heart is  guarding myself from falling in love with him again.

Now it shall spring forth: what I do know about springing forth! If you have read this blog, and just click into the archives, you will realize I only blog in the Spring. Why? Because the entire summer, the entire fall, the entire winter, I am dead, a dormant little bulb in the soil, absolutely convinced I will never speak again, utterly resentful of the God I’ve praised for a good three months, wondering where all that morning dew evaporated to. I am terrified of dying again. I am terrified that dying before means dying again. And yet, here it is, movingly, a gentle call staring at me right out of the pages of my devotional: “He wants you to read your past like a history book, but not like a prophecy for your future.”(Stormie OMartian) This analogy is entirely appropriate, because we do learn from history books (or the presumption is we do, otherwise what are we doing reading them? – and before any historians storm my post yelling in their muffled historian voices that they are not Whig historians, seriously consider the use or the assumption that lies behind the writing of any history book – presumably it’s not just to get tenure…) but presumably they are not fatalistic, particularly if we believe in the Jesus-makes-all-things-new business.

Then there is Paul’s amazing springing sentence. You know I always bristle at the start of Philippians 3, just because I feel the bristle of self-recognition (those of you who know me know I have a longstanding love-hate relationship with Paul). There’s all that bit about boasting about not boasting, about being the model Jew, etc etc, with the best education, etc etc, with all the correct qualifications and all the zeal and pretty much then being the perfect Christian and yadda yadda, BUT he puts no stock by that! (Here you can pretty much hear the creaking strains on that particular ego!)But you know what? Paul had a pretty bad history to forget: He had murdered people. And not just people, he had murdered early Christians. In a genocidal frenzy. Talk about “forgetting what is behind”/emotional baggage!

I’ve always been terrified of my reputation from the past. I pretty much despise my fourteen-year-old-self. And actually any younger incarnation of myself. I am definitely very Pauline. I have given Judith Huang a bad name, I feel. This is particularly true when you come from a tiny little incestuous island, where almost every Singaporean I meet abroad has a cousin/uncle/classmate who knows me. What does that even mean, knows me? Has heard about me, has heard rumours about me, can in all probability google up all my past relationships, knows what I got in PSLE (that’s the national exam people take when they are tiny little twelve-year-olds), have seen me play a role in a school play, have heard me in my fiery and slightly bitchy incarnation as a debater, have read my juvenile poems in a blog somewhere sometime. Jesus knew me then and loved me then, God knows how. Because I was an insecure little bundle of nerves, graced with acne and several caked layers of obnoxiousness, hoping to be better than everyone else but knowing, as all teenagers know, that they are really vastly inferior. And not that I got a whole lot better as I got older, either.

And, on the cusp of graduating now, it is going to be hard to “forget what was behind” – there are dozens of things at Harvard I leave behind, good things and bad things, things still in the whirring dryer of my unconscious, being “processed” as I type.

But He makes all things new.
And I’m supposed to believe that, the songs I write, the posts I type out, the little tunes I sing to my bunny, the short video clips I compose, the illustrations I toss off, all these things are part of that new thing, and not something my inner materialist tells me is a complicated jumble of hormones, and the fever pitch a Harvard semester always concludes in, and the effects of the weather combined. And I’m supposed to believe in Jesus, creator of the universe, and the most gentle Person I know.
I’m supposed to fall in love with him again this Spring, and let Him keep me in love with Him this summer, and walk off into the sunset with Him into The Rest Of My Life.
And you know what? I’m still scared. But He gave Paul that sentence – that swooshing, whooping sentence, which I have always found beautiful and true:

and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus

the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!
the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!
the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

It is so irresistible, so exultant, so fresh, so new.
A friend wrote, THIS is literature – Paul, naturally, writing a letter, trying his best to say what is best for Philippians to hear, and accidentally, his pen lets off a wild whoop!
Not the poets laboring over a sheet of white paper, trying to say something intense, but simply a byproduct of Godly work, work for encouraging and helping. Something not too terribly seriously literary, but indeed, terribly serious. And you know what, it is read throughout the world, and echoes in the minds of millions across the centuries, and stands, stands always by the gate of life for all eternity. A new sentence. A new thing. That is truth. That is beauty.

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