Of all the goober things about me, one of the gooberier is my pen pathology. I am a lover of the right kind of pen, and I hold a passionate, from-the-pit hatred of the wrong kind of pen. I’d like to say that it is the writer in me that causes such strange passions. However, if I asked my wife, she would say it’s just because I’m a dork. I tend to agree with her.
Those of you who are content to use those disposable, 100-pack-for-a-quarter, melted-cotton-candy-blue Paper Mate pens, I don’t get you. They are too thin, they are poorly designed so the pointy tip of the cap jabs your hand unless you hold it just right, they write in blue ink (which is an abomination), and they dry out even when there is ink left in them (which, I believe, is because they just stop trying due to their own self-loathing). The only pens worse are those Bic Cristal disposables with their hexagonal shape specifically designed to maim the top knuckles of every student who ever has to use them for a timed write in school.
On the other hand, a perfectly balanced ball-point with a good flowing medium tip gently dispensing a glossy line of rich black, non-smearing ink is one of life’s great delights. It should have a little weight to it, so that you know it is there. If there is an internal mechanism, it should be smooth and consistent. Like all great elements of nature, you should be able to look at it and see the hand of an Intelligent Designer, not just the devolution of a survival of the cheapest.
In the pen world, the fountain pen is the king of all writing utensils. There are those who are a lot richer and a lot dorkier than me who will pay hundreds of dollars for a good fountain pen. But even the cheaper fountain pens are still pricey if you want to get one that’s worthwhile. I just couldn’t justify it. But, finally, after someone gave me an Amazon gift card back in 2014, I saw my opportunity. I dropped $50 on a Lamy Al-Star Graphite Fountain Pen with a refillable cartridge and a bottle of Noodler’s Black Waterproof Ink. I can remember my excitement as I opened the package and felt its smooth metal for the first time. Learning how to fill it was a bit tricky at first, but I soon enough discovered the best way. And when the point finally touched paper – it was everything that I had hoped it would be. I carried that beauty around in my pocket daily for the next two years.
Then, gradually, I began to leave it at home – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. The refill process was getting tedious, and I found that the ink had a tendency to bleed through the pages of the notebook that I had started carrying. Eventually, this once-prized possession was placed into a pen cup on our credenza and there it’s sat for the last few years.
Last week, when we were doing some straightening up around the house, I came across my Lamy Al-Star Graphite friend and I felt the flash of that excitement I had when I first received it in the mail. I hefted it up, let it rest in my hand, and felt the cool of the metal between my thumb and forefinger. It was a little worse for the wear – a little nick here, a little dent there. But the joy I felt at reuniting with this old companion was enough to get me to refill her up and try carrying her around for a while.
New and Renew – two related terms that can be vastly different. When something is new, it is flawless, unblemished, spit-spot (used in honor of my wife and daughter who went to see the new Mary Poppins movie, and graciously left me at home). There is the excitement of mystery, of discovery, of first time. This is true in everything from writing with a new fountain pen to a chef opening a salmon with a recently-acquired Japanese fillet knife to a mom driving her much-desired third-row vehicle off the car lot to a couple who did things right and are now opening the door to their honeymoon suite. There is a purity in new. A perfection.
When God calls us to Himself, He makes us new. Jesus called it being “born again” (John 3:3). There are few things as wonderfully new as an infant as it makes its debut into the world. It is a perfectly clean slate. Similarly, when we are born again, we emerge from the sin-slavery we were held in to a perfectly clean spiritual slate. Jesus does with us the same thing that He promises that He will do with all of Creation when He says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) Creation was perfect (“good”), then we mucked it up with sin. Humanity was perfect, then Adam mucked it up with sin. We emerge from the womb semi-perfect (apart from Adam’s little gift of a sin nature), but we don’t need his help to muck ourselves up with sin. And, unfortunately, even when we emerge from our spiritual womb and are born again, we too soon go about mucking it right back up.
That is where the beauty of “renew” comes in. In John’s first letter, we are promised that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) In other words, when we taint the newness of our baby fresh born again-ness, Jesus will be there to renew us back to clean. However, it won’t quite be the same. We will not have the same mystery and discovery and first-timedness of when we were initially born again. But what we will have is more understanding of what the born again life is, more knowledge of the pitfalls that can take us down, and more wisdom on how not to drop into those pitfalls. Renew doesn’t have the same new car smell, but still has the same engine under the hood.
With the beginning of this new year comes an opportune time for evaluation. If you have never given yourself to Jesus – trusting Him to be your Savior (the One who will forgive you of your sins and give you eternal life) and committing to make Him your Lord (the One you will strive to follow all your life) – then this is the perfect moment to be made new, to be born again fresh and cleansed from all your sins. This isn’t something you work for. It’s a free gift given to you. If you want to know more about this, click this link, here.
If you have already received that new life, but have found yourself getting tainted by sin and by the world, then take this moment to renew yourself. You haven’t gone too far away. God hasn’t given up on you. When you are ready to come back to Him, He is ready to renew you – to purify you so that you are once again fresh and clean. And what you’ll find is that you’ll also be a little bit wiser – more ready for the attacks – so now not only can you protect yourself better, but God will be able to use you to help others keep themselves from tainting the beauty of their hearts that have also been made fresh by God.