J. Randall Stewart
51 - Novelty
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
My first year in college, I took a writing class. In that class I wrote a paper about friendship. I thought it was a great paper. My teacher didn't think so. She told me I was great at making things sound good, but not so much at making good points. I was disappointed, but I learned from that criticism. You can't put form over function. When you do, what you get is novelty.
Novelty is something that looks good, but doesn't always serve a good purpose.
There's nothing wrong with novelty. There's nothing wrong with wanting things to look good.
I'm an artist. I've dabbled in all kinds of mediums. Painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, film, graphic design, and woodworking. As an artist, I value the way things look. That's what we call aesthetics.
I'm also a craftsman. I work construction. I build stuff. Most of my construction projects need to balance novelty and practicality. They need to look good, and they need to work good.
God made the world to be beautiful, but beauty has a purpose. When I walk in the woods, and take in God's creation, it grounds me in a different space. It brings calm. God's approach towards novelty isn't impractical. Everything in all creation points us to God in some way. The neat thing about God, is that He is ever the same, and always new. God balances novelty and timelessness perfectly.
In life, we need to be grounded in unchanging things, while still able to launch out into the adventure of the undiscovered. God has made the world for us to explore. But God also made us for community. Community is people we can count on to always be there for us. It's not good to be unmoored and ever-changing in our relationships. I once read that one stable, long-term relationship is transformational for those with deep trauma and relational scars. We need to know that there is at least one person who is with us, and for us, no matter what life throws at us. It's not good to take a novelty approach towards relationships.
That one, stabilizing person for me, has been my wife.
Having grown up with childhood trauma, I've had a lot to work through. It's taken me a long time to feel safe enough to begin to open up and share some of my deeper wounds. Growing in a trusting relationship with my wife showed me that she would be there for me, through the ups and downs, and never give up, even when I was a mess. That one stable, long-term relationship helped break through a lot of the fear I had about love and being hurt by others I was trying to love. A novel approach towards relationships doesn't allow for that.
If we don't know how to cultivate and maintain long-term relationships, we'll always be running to the next new friend, or lover, when the newness of the previous starts to wear off. Old friends are those who have been there for us, and with us through thick and thin. They've seen our worst, and still stuck around. It's good to know that we can have such dear friends like that. New friends are fun, but they haven't been tested by our bad side and failures. We don't really know what they'll do when things get tough, and the relationship isn't fun anymore.
Life should be a good balance between the old and the new, between stability and novelty. We need things to stabilize us. But we also need things to move us forward into new seasons and new growth. But we'll always need an anchor through ever changing tides, to help ground us in what need never change.
The greatest relational anchor I've found is God.
I love growing to know God. I love that I can count on God always being there, and always being the same, no matter what mess or mix I'm in. I've learned that, no matter what I'm in, or how good or bad I'm doing, I can count of God's wisdom, love, and guiding presence to be there, and to help me through. God is the most grounding aspect in my life. Through all the ups and downs, God's love and strength pulls me through.
I hope you have that kind of relationship with God as well.
In all your searching for the new, don't forget to maintain a good, unchanging foundation for your life. A little bit of novelty, with a lot of stability, goes a long way.