Desert Wisdom: The Great Reverse

Following his Introduction, Bunge formally begins his book with these words from Luke, “No one after drinking old wine desires new….” (5:39).

Immediately,  we are plunged into “the great reverse” of the spiritual life.  It is the conviction that “the old” is better than “the new.”

We think the opposite.  “New is better” has become a mantra of contemporary life.  We think that people who use anything that’s “old” are old.  We think that anything “old” is automatically old-fashioned.  That disposition slams the door shut (and locks it) on the very premise that Bunge uses to begin his book.

But if we stop and think about it, we always begin with “the old.”

I went to college with the man who became the Senior Pilot for American Airlines.  Years ago, we were talking about his remarkable journey and how it paralleled his Christian faith in many ways.  Melvin reminded me that in the earliest days of his pilot training, he always kept the manual close at hand, and followed it step-by-step.

In other words, he learned to fly based on what others had learned about flying.  And….he went on to tell me that experienced pilots still go back for refresher training based upon the fundamentals of flight.  He also said that the manual is always at hand, and that he always used it, lest he forget something.

And so it is with learning any skill or sport.  We turn to “the old” in order to know how to do whatever it is we are trying to do.

“New” is not better.  In fact, if it’s all you have, it’s dangerous.  There’s no area of life that works by making it up as you go along.  Novelty is certain death.

So too, in learning to pray and in coming to live a life of prayer, we drink from well-dug wells.  We follow in the footsteps of the men and women who have prayed authentically and transferred their insights to the rest of us.

We are invited into “the great reverse”—God’s way of taking us backward in order to move forward.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Desert Wisdom: The Great Reverse

  1. Keith Harcombe says:

    In starting a new job at a Methodist Church I find the lectionary and the UM book of worship a great “old” resource to assist me be in being a new pilot!

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