The Problem with New
By cole nesmith
January 19, 2012
A couple years ago, I decided I needed to write more consistently. I had kept a small notebook with a hard, black cover by my bed for the months preceding this new resolution. I’d only written in about the first third of the journal, but the cover was beginning to look worn and the edges of the pages dingy with dust and dirt. So in order to have a fresh start, I put that notebook on the shelf, drove to Barnes and Noble and picked up a brand new—identical—notebook.
There’s an excitement that comes with getting something new. It’s fresh. It’s shiny. It’s untainted and idealized. When something is new, it exists as a symbol of hope—of what could be—without the blemishes of time and use. We've all been there before, putting hope in something new: buying a new Bible hoping it will reignite a pursuit of God, purchasing the newest Apple product because it promises to "change everything again," getting a new pair of running shoes to spark an exercise regimen, taking a class to stimulate us to learn something new.
Everyone loves experiencing new things and stepping into something they've never tried before. Those are wonderfully stretching moments. But there is a present danger in the constant pursuit of new: People can become addicted to the first third.
The first third of anything is marked by newness, freshness, fun and excitement. It’s the easy part of something—the introductory course that captures the attention.
But then comes the second third. This is when things become habitual. The car has lost its new car smell, but it’s still faithful in getting from one place to the other. It’s working, and it doesn't really take much thought or get much notice.
And then comes the last third—when it gets hard. It takes more work to accomplish what seems like proportionally less progress. It’s a comfortable first chair violinist pressing through hours of rehearsal to become a concert violinist. This last third takes time, sacrifice, sweat and tears to really see the pursuit come into its fullness.
The three levels of relationships
All of this is a nice little conversation when it comes to hobbies or possessions. It starts to hold a bit more gravity when applied to passions and responsibilities. But it holds its deepest meaning when applied to relationships.
An addiction to the high of the first third has kept many from reaching the true depths of relationship people are created to experience.
A common relational habit is to find a group of friends and spend a lot of time doing fun stuff with them until one grows tired of them. Then they go about attempting to find another group of people who might interest them in that first third kind of way—fun, exciting, fresh. The hope is that something will be different this time around. Perhaps they’ll be able to maintain that first third buzz. But, with time and proximity, the first third buzz becomes a hangover as they step into the rhythm of life together—and they often move on.
But what if they stayed? What would that look like? The first third does play a significant role in the development of relationship. It’s a blessing that is meant to be enjoyed—the honeymoon phase. And surely, they will continue to share new experiences together with these people as they journey deeper into friendship. The second third means people are beginning to know each other a bit better. They’ve come to know one another’s likes and interests, and so conversations are forced deeper. A bit of the initial politeness of trying to impress goes away, and some of the polish comes off the veneer.
And then comes the last third. This is when they’re really pressing in deep together. The last third of relationship building is the part where they stick together through the seasons. It’s the part where they see the totality of the people around them—their broken parts, their flaws—and they make the conscious decision to stick with it. It’s the difficult part where they’re wondering if any of it is really worth it. It’s when they feel awkward standing in the same room with someone else, but they’re strong enough not to run away. In fact, they walk across the room and extend an invitation into conversation, resolution and growth.
Resisting the "first third" addiction
So what comes with sticking through to the deep part—the last third? Something very beautiful that calls to the deepest part of what it means for us to be fully human. It’s a picture of knowing the people around us through thick and thin—seeing them at their best and at their worst. It’s sticking with one another through major life events. Celebrating marriages together. Holding one another through the loss of a loved one. And trusting one another so much that we raise each other’s kids—together. And 10, 15, 20 years down the road, reminiscing about the lifelong experiences shared together. We laugh about the silly things, and with time, we can even laugh about some of the tough times. It’s sticking together through the last third that grows and matures us into a village. We become a loving, nurturing, growing family that sticks close through the journey of life.
This isn’t just some nice thing for us to enjoy. It's essential for us to thrive—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. This isn’t just a matter of wills and decisions. This is a deeply spiritual battle. Because the reality is that as the difficulty of our relationships increase, so do the rewards. The first third is rewarded with fun. The second third is rewarded with consistency and stability. The last third is rewarded with a full life of connectivity and growth.
To press through that last third, to enter into the fullness of relationship that we are meant to live, it will require sacrifice. It means every opportunity that comes your way must be filtered through the lens of “What is this doing to my relationships?” and “Although this is fun and although I really feel like I want to do it—what implications and impact will it have on my committed relationships?”
To live in a village is going to require much of me and you. But it’s so very worth it—and what a beautiful village it will be.