Something Old

There is something grand about old things that are still in good shape.

Old furniture with the patina of the ages, dripping with history, is far more intriguing to me than the uncomfortable, modern stuff. When you sit in it or eat on it or listen to music out of it, your mind pictures those in previous centuries who did the same. You try to imagine their world of oil lamps, buggies, outhouses, and potbelly stoves. Each scrape or dent hides a story you wish you knew.

Old hardback books are far more fascinating than those slick-cover paperbacks that flood today’s market. The classic works, leather-bound with colorful end pages and gold-gilded edges, have a feel and a smell that defy duplication. As I handle them, pore over their contents, enjoy the tiny print, and drink in the late author’s thoughts, which are both profound and quaintly stated, my mind rushes back to simpler times. I find it therapeutic to hold in my hands pages that have endured the ages, volumes that have crossed oceans in wooden crates, containing lines that other eyes have pondered and other fingers have marked. Even reading the same words in updated reprints is not the same. Something about the authenticity of antiquity thrills me within.

Old cars that have been restored capture my fancy much more quickly than the latest models. Caught in a time warp, as I watch one of those old beauties pass in review, I can’t help but smile and let the wonder in. Every year there is an Interstate Batteries Great American Race from coast to coast, where more than eighty pre-World War II autos make their way through cities and villages, driven by men and women who look like they’ve just stepped out of a Norman Rockwell canvas. What fun . . . what classic vehicles! Among them I’ve seen a spotless 1928 Auburn Boattail Speedster, a velvet black 1934 Ford Phaeton, a handsome 1932 Hupmobile Cabriolet, a vintage 1930 Pierce Arrow with gangster whitewalls and that handsome hood ornament. I’ve also seen a 1931 seven-passenger Buick convertible with the old trunk mounted over the rear bumper, the show-stopping maroon and black 1932 Packard Model 902, and even a bright red 1910 Knox Raceabout chugging along the blue highways. Big, bold running boards, solid slabs of metal forming giant fenders and domed hoods, chromed hubcaps, and flat windshields transport driver and admirer alike to another place in another time when men were courteous gentlemen, women were feminine ladies, children were innocent, teachers were respected, movies were clean, songs were romantic, and life was uncluttered and often just plain fun.

Old churches have a charm and elegance about them that cannot be matched today. When you step into them—as I have done in the countryside of old England, on the windswept coastlines of France, in the backwoods of Virginia and Vermont, and on the soft rolling hills of Tennessee and Texas—there lingers a smell of old stained-glass, hardwood floors, and oak pews that time cannot erase. As you settle into one of the creaking pews, your imagination runs free as a robed choir is harmonizing on the final refrain of “Love Lifted Me,” or the pipe organist, at full volume, is filling the sanctuary with one of Bach’s masterworks. The thunderous voice of the preacher is in the woodwork, and the altar beckons you to be still and know that God is God. The graveyard adjacent to the church, with its gray slate stones and eloquent etchings, leaves mute reminders of another era when the sting of death broke other hearts. Strangely, such sights and songs and smells equip us to face our own battles with renewed vigor.

It’s the old things—things that have outlived the fashions and the fads, that have endured wars and recessions, presidents and plagues—that remind us to pause and encourage us to strengthen our roots. Old bridges, old walls, old houses, old boats, old bikes, old hymns, old pictures, old memories . . . these things do more than prompt nostalgic feelings, suggesting to us that we are not alone in this long and sometimes lonely journey from earth to heaven. They link us to days gone by, to eras when colorful history was being shaped and harder times were being endured. By touching something old, something new is stirred within us . . . something we need so that we might carry on. By standing on the shoulders of yesterday, the view into tomorrow is not nearly so frightening. On the contrary, fresh and new feelings pulsate within us. New determination to press on. New courage to stand alone. New feelings of gratitude to keep us humble. New joy to take the grind out of today’s demands. New strength to endure today’s tests.

I suppose it’s my love for old things that makes me love the Old Testament so. Its old, timeworn stories never fail to shout out, “You can make it! Don’t quit . . . don’t give up!” Its truth, secure and solid as a stone, smiles back, as if to say, “I’m still here, waiting to be claimed and applied.” Whether it’s some ancient prophet’s warning or a patriarch’s prayer, a poet’s calm psalm, or a preacher’s challenging reminder, the Old Testament lives on.

It invites us to admire it, as we would a fine piece of furniture. It awaits our holding it and pondering its pages as we would a treasured old volume that other hands have held. It offers us new vistas of scenery that we might enjoy through the windshield of a vintage automobile. It still speaks as in the days when reformers heralded hope from strong pulpits, when revivalists pled for souls in open-air campaigns, when faithful expositors taught saints of yesteryear (and more important, lived lives of uncompromising integrity), when rugged missionaries left all the familiar comforts of home and carried its message to hostile tribes, exotic islands, and other cross-cultural destinations.

From grand cathedrals alongside honking traffic, great churches in busy suburbs, quaint chapels tucked away in quiet woods, and primitive huts in dense forests, the timeless truths of the Old Testament’s 39 books have been proclaimed. In spite of the attacks of its critics, the attempts of the Adversary to silence its message, and even the failures of some of its preachers, the Old Testament endures like an ageless anvil wearing away the hammers.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
(Isaiah 40:8)

Though ancient, it has never lost its relevance. Though battered, no one has ever improved on its content. Though old, it never fails to offer something pure, something wise, and something new.

Copyright © 2009 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Posted in Bible and tagged .

Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.