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The inevitability of obsolescence

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Nya had put off getting a new battery for her phone for as long as she could, what with three kids, rent, and an underemployed husband. Finally, it would not charge anymore, so Nya went to her local store to get a replacement. She relayed the model number and was informed, “Oh, they don’t make batteries for those anymore and besides, after January 1st it will be replaced with a newer model, and you would not be able to use it anyway.” Her phone was perfectly OK, with no cracks, or dents, and it did precisely what she wanted. It was now obsolete and had to be replaced with money she did not really have.
Gary was a senior citizen relying primarily on Social Security to provide for his daily needs. Before he retired some time ago, he purchased what, was then, a top of the line computer setup. It was quick, had plenty of RAM, a big monitor and was well recommended. Gary had also acquired the most popular software to operate the machine. Over time, as with many of us, he scanned the Internet, did some shopping, played a few games, wrote some letters and sent, or received, a few pictures. Even though time had passed, the system was quite adequate for his needs.
Yet, time and tide seemingly march on. Gary first heard about the new replacement version of his operating system on social media. It would not work with what he had. Like Nya, there would be a time when he would not be able to get support; as it was now obsolete. He too was perfectly OK with the computer and how everything worked. However, because of the reality, Gary eventually begrudgingly bought another computer; much to his chagrin and putting a large dent in his bank account.
Many of us can readily understand the ire of both Nya and Gary in their wrestling with obsolescence. Each had a device which had not gone beyond its useful life; being perfectly adequate for their needs. As in all of the things of our world, our devices and desires have a finite life, before they too become obsolete. That shiny new car, which we were so proud of, becomes an article of ridicule on the corner very-well-used car lot; if not a cube at the recycling yard. A favorite dress becomes tired and dated and the water heater gives out. They too have become obsolete.
In our transitory world, we may have become too easily inured to this to oh-so-lacking sense of permanence. Seemingly, it permeates our sensibilities, as we celebrate the so-called new and expunge the old.
In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, he relates, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” For Christians, the Apostle is clear in addressing our transitory emotions and habits. When we become accustomed, and readily endorse change, for change’s sake, our relationship with God also becomes skewed. With the onslaught of repetitive obsolescence, our religious beliefs may come to be equally as malleable.
This is the great challenge set before us. In our ready acceptance of change, we may begin to question what God, through Jesus Christ, seeks from us and for us. Even though Scripture is unambiguous, we ask, “What did God REALLY mean?” or the oft-used rationale, “That was then, this is now.”
Indeed, our lives are entirely changeable. Our minds, our bodies, and our very souls change over time. We too have an “expiration date;” set at some unknown moment in our future. Yet it is because of the invariableness of God, which we understand is His constancy and permanence, there is “a place prepared for” us.
This is the promise of Jesus Christ. No variableness; no obsolescence no changeability. We rely upon His constancy for our salvation and redemption in this, our flawed, ever-changing world.