As the New Year begins to glow on the horizon, I cannot help but become quite reflective. I’m not big into making resolutions or setting goals for the upcoming year, but each year I find myself searching my heart and asking God for His direction for the upcoming year. And each year, He whispers something to my heart for me to hold onto throughout the year to come.
This year, the whisper came at church on Sunday, in the form of a Scripture, that I know will soon hold deep meanings of grace for me all year. The verse was Isaiah 30:12 which states, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” This promise means a lot to me as this year will be a year of seeking direction and asking for guidance as my husband and I grow closer to graduating from seminary and our family goes into full-time ministry.
As I’ve gone through this week, I’ve prayed that when the voice behind us comes, we will hear it; that our ears will be attuned to hearing it no matter when or how it comes our way.
And to that end, I can’t help but consider the traditional New Year’s song Auld Lang Syne. The lyrics ask, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” I’ve always found this an unusual question to be asking at the dawn of a new year, and yet, it is the one that tends to be considered.
People are often desperate for a new start. Whether the year they leave behind is full of joy or sorrow, it seems like everyone grasps onto this new year with a sense of hope and expectation. Goals are set. Resolutions are made. Hopes are verbalized. Statements like, “This year I will..” or “It’s not going to be like last year.”
And sometimes in the middle of grasping for something new, we cast aside the old or question if those things should “be forgot.”
But we all know that the reality is, for most, those goals, resolutions and hopes lose steam after a few weeks or months and whatever sense of newness and starting over we might feel tends to grow into the everyday living that defines our life. And often, the old things, the ones we questioned or cast aside, become the very things that give us direction, insight, and understanding into our daily living.
I notice this often when it comes to the church. As churches, ministers and believers, we never want to stop growing, to embrace the new things God is doing and to continue moving forward with Him. But I’ve seen us, in our embrace of the future, forget the importance of the past.
We segregated our ages, so that old and young rarely interact.
We segregate our services, so that contemporary and traditional rarely worship together.
We segregate our friendships and relationships, so that we are often surrounded by those who share our common experiences but not those who have more or less experience to teach us or motivate us.
Should old acquaintance be forgot? I really don’t think they should.
I think they should be cultivated. I think we should intentionally reach out to those older than us and develop relationships that can help both of us learn together.
As parents, I think it is important that we help our children develop relationships with adults who will encourage, mentor and join us in discipling our kids in the faith.
As ministers, I think it’s important that we do all we can to help generations come together in worship and experience congregational life together. To, in a sense, “take of cup of kindness yet” and live and experience everyday life in community and in Christ.
Going back to my own whisper from God about hearing a voice giving direction for our future, I would not be surprised if that voice in part comes from some “old acquaintances,” men and women of faith that have known us a long time and/or known Christ a long time who can speak truth and wisdom into our lives. By no means do I want to forget them! Rather I want to embrace them, to grow with them, and to cultivate a relationship with them that allows God to speak His truth and guidance into ours.
I’ve seen a meme going around social media that says, “God didn’t say to follow other Christians; He said to follow Him.” And while this may be true on the surface, God didn’t stop there. He called us to community. He commanded the old to teach the young. He told the parents to disciple the children. He called a community not individuals. Paul even said to follow him as he followed Christ.
This year, no matter what goals you have, personally, ministerially, or relationally, don’t forget the old acquaintances God has put in your path. In fact, perhaps the new thing could be cultivating the old thing, helping the young to grow with the old and finding ways to build bridges instead of walls. There is much to be learned from those who have gone before us, both in our lifetime and in many years past. Much to be gained from reading their stories, listening to their hearts, and gleaning from their experiences.
For Auld Lang Syne.
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.