A Reluctance for New Wine

A Twilight Musing

The first few days of a new year invite us to review the recent past, to let go of our baggage, and to pursue self-improvement.  However, Jesus gave advice about the danger of trying to embrace the new while holding tenaciously onto the old:  “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved" (Matt. 9:17).

Both of the poems below deal with how our desire for the “new wine” of positively altered behavior is hindered by either our reluctance to break through the comfort boundaries of the familiar, or our substitution of face-saving guilt feelings for humble reform.  Our Adversary has no preference for either of the two, since they are equally effective in preventing the painful process of growth.  Happy New Year, folks.


A Reluctance for New Wine


The fabric of threadbare hope

Stretches toward year's end.

Pieces of frayed ambition extend

To cover the old wineskins

That many disclaim

But few set aside.

Like children clutching tattered dolls,

We hug in vain security

The rags of the past,

Because in some degree

They are accommodated to our wills.


The outworn selves we cling to

Can be our own

The more as time goes by:

We patch and mend

In order to possess.


The New

Stirs something deep within—

But I would not willingly admit it.


                                                            --Elton D. Higgs (Dec. 31, 1977)


A Prayer for Exorcism


Lord, spare me from the ghosts

Of work undone;

The year has run its course,

And once again I find

Unfinished what I had designed.

No doubt You hoped for more as well;

But, truth to tell,

I doubt my sense of falling short

Arises from the faults You see.

I prefer those sins whose guilty shades

Are quite definable,

And limit my lament

To my own thwarted ends.

Your design transcends my pride;

I cannot hide beneath the guilt

That comes from You,

For it speaks of new beginnings,

And brooks no misty sentiment

For what I've failed to do.


                                 --Elton D. Higgs  (12/30/78)


Image: "Growing" by A Tipton. CC license. 


Elton Higgs

Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals. (Ed.: Dr. Higgs was the most important mentor during undergrad for the creator of this website, and his influence was inestimable; it's thrilling to welcome this dear friend onboard.)