What My Pediatrician Visit Taught me about Old and New Wineskins

I found myself sitting at the pediatrician’s office for the second time in three weeks.  It was a particularly busy Saturday, and as I waited for our turn, I dreaded what I knew the diagnosis would be: Alyssa would have another ear infection.  Just two months ago my regular pediatrician and I discussed Alyssa’s inability to go through any cold or allergy without an ear infection.  We were trying to hold out a few more months to see if she would outgrow this before putting tubes in her ears.

But here I was, for the third time in 3 months, fearing that the waiting game might not be the best for her.  Her little 26-month-old body has had way too many antibiotics in the last year and a half.

Since it was a Saturday, I would see a different pediatrician. This one was closer to my age, only having been out of medical school a short time.  I hadn’t seen her yet but I held out hope that perhaps she would give me different treatment plan than yet another antibiotic.

I was right.  She said although Alyssa’s ears were both infected, they weren’t terribly bad, so she wanted to try her on a regimen of four different allergy medicines to clear her up.  I was all for that.  I’d try anything to spare Alyssa from another round of antibiotic.  I left the clinic hopeful, and I couldn’t help but compare this visit to my other ones.

I trust my regular pediatrician completely.  He is thorough, caring, and doesn’t leave any stone unturned.  He gives me options and his suggestions but lets me make decisions for my children. He doesn’t hesitate offering to refer me to a specialist when needed.  I trust his years of experience and how he uses that experience to do the best he can for my children with each and every visit.  When I have had a concern that I considered major, he was the one I wanted to evaluate my child, hands down.

But seeing this young peditrician gave me a different perspective.  She wasn’t quick to choose the path that was the obvious one, the one that had been tried and true for decades.  I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was just as concerned about putting Alyssa on one more round of antibiotics as I was.  She had read current research on the potential cumulative lifelong effects of antibiotics especially in children just like I had, plus many more I’m sure.  She knew antibiotics have their place, but with Alyssa’s current mild infection, she wanted to give something else a try.

As I was considering this, my mind started reflecting on a verse in Scripture that has always baffled me. It’s something Jesus said and it’s recorded in three Gospels (which baffles me in itself; how does this verse get into three Gospels and the whole Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead thing get in just one? I digress.).

“Neither do people 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.” (Matthew 9:17)

Do you know why this has always baffled me?  It’s just a matter-of-fact statement.  There’s no “here’s the lesson here” added.  I don’t understand why Jesus would make a statement like that with no explanation.  He might as well have said, “The sky is blue.”  That’s as far as I’ve ever been able to get with that verse.

But as I was contemplating my pediatrician visit, I started to think about what this verse might mean.  Now, I’ve been in the Southern Baptist church from the womb,  so you can imagine that I know next to nothing about wine.  But from what I’ve gathered from movies and such, old wine is the best tasting wine, right?

So what would happen if people only drank old wine?  Eventually the wine would run out.

And what would happen if people only drank new wine? They’d miss out on some of the best wine ever. 

What does that lead me to believe that Jesus could be saying here?  You need both, both the old and the new.

In a perfect world, I would prefer to take my child to both pediatricians at the same time.  I’d want the wisdom and experience of my regular pediatrician, yet I’d like the fresh perspective of the young one. Wouldn’t that be perfect?

Perhaps that’s what Jesus was trying to tell us.  As churches, we are grappling with how to accommodate the needs of both the older generation and the younger generations.  We are grappling with how to utilize the skills and gifts of both groups.  And many times the easiest thing to do is accommodate each separately.

But what if we recognized that both groups are of vital importance to the growth of the church?  As one of my favorite Casting Crowns songs says, we need the “fire of the young ones and the wisdom of the old.”

I don’t think Jesus made that statement about wineskins to cause one to want to become the other.  He wasn’t asking the old wineskins to change and become like new. That wouldn’t be possible.  He wasn’t asking the new wineskins to hang out patiently until they became old wineskins where they could be used for the best wine.

I think he was pointing out the differences and celebrating them, knowing that together, the best wine would be produced, and would continue being produced for years and years.

It’s amazing what spiritual truths you can learn from a simple visit to the pediatrician. 🙂

UPDATE: Almost 2 weeks later, Alyssa’s ear infection is completely cleared up.  I’ve also slowly taken her off two of the four allergy medicines with no recurrence.  I know we’re not out of the woods completely yet, but I couldn’t be happier at this point!

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