I love new things. Christmas morning with its bursting stockings is like a slice of heaven for me. Few things are better than new socks, or a kind email, or a new crisp book packed with possibility. I love new words, fresh snow, or the emerging green tops of tulips after a dark winter. I love a great idea that pops into my head as I’m pouring coffee, or a new recipe, or an unexpected conversation with people I love.
I think I like new things because it makes me hopeful that I will find what I’m looking for: a place of peace, joy, and purpose here.
Recently I heard about, and bought, a new toothpaste. It is an Italian brand called Marvis and they have the strangest flavours ranging from floral jasmine to a kind of Persian spice to liquorice. It is weird and wonderful. I think I love these little toothpastes because in this season of isolation I have something new to look forward to. When most days can be monotonous in this pandemic lock-down, and life seems to be full of waiting, I have my new tubes of Marvis toothpaste and things seem, for a moment, to be OK.
This is, of course, a bit silly. It is just toothpaste, but it reveals something happening inside of me. To want what is new is a sign of something deeper. This longing, even for toothpaste, reveals something about how I was made. Humans are hardwired to search out the new, the beautiful, and the hopeful. Sometimes we place these feeling of new hope in things like toothpaste, or a new wide-screen TV, or a new car. We swipe through social media hunting, and hoping that we’ll find something good there. Things may satisfy this desire for a moment, but often it is short-lived and we are driven to look further. I wonder if some divorces, broken relationships, addictions, and other reactions might be rooted in the misplacement of our desire for something new.
Instead of viewing this longing for the new as an inevitable flaw, I am learning to simply put it in a better place. Sure, I buy the toothpaste and enjoy my new books, but in the end I have to place my desire for what is new in God’s hands. St Augustine wrote that all of our desires, and hopes, and pursuits can simply reveal our deeper longing for the ultimate Beauty, Goodness and Hope. It is a persistent sign that we were made for a better way, a loving way, a generous way, and a way connected to those around us. The desire for the new thing is like an alert beacon blinking away in our hearts. Our response to it can send us out to the shopping mall or scrolling on Instagram, or we can respond to it as a guiding light towards the kind of human life we were made to live, and from my experience, towards the God who made us and loves us.
The New Year brings with it the earnest hope for a better year ahead. Especially this year, we are eager to toss aside 2020 with an eye straining forward to 2021 and some sense of normalcy, or newness. May your desire for new things turn your eyes and heart to those around you and may you see with fresh vision the good and the beautiful right where you are. This year is going to be special, and it’s not because of the toothpaste (although I do recommend the tropical flavour). This year is going to be special because your desire for something new may take you on an unexpected road that leads you safely Home.