- Monday, June 23, 2008
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Infinite Impact: Making the Most of Your Place on God’s Timeline by Stu Weber (Tyndale).
Chapter 1: Purpose and Power
If you accept the idea that we live out our earthly lives on a timeline, then this very moment—right now—is already part of the past. I hope you enjoyed it, because it’s already gone by. You’re further down the line than when you began this paragraph.
One philosopher pictured the passing succession of life’s moments like a sizzling stick of dynamite, declaring, “The essence of nowness runs like fire along the fuse of time.”
Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssst! Look out. There it goes!
How fast is the fuse burning? C. S. Lewis described the future as “something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”1
Yes, it may seem as if time has slowed to a crawl as you sit passively in a chair or propped up in bed reading this book, but at this very moment your timeline is on fire—racing down the seconds, minutes, and hours toward its inevitable conclusion.
Before the advent of dynamite fuses, thoughtful men and women sought to capture the fleeting nature of time with other metaphors. Plato observed, “It is as if we were floating on a river, carried by the current past the manifold of events which is spread out timelessly on the bank.” The apostle James was perhaps sitting by a river on a misty morning when he wrote, “You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.”2
That’s a picture of the brevity of life as a whole, but it’s also a snapshot of this very moment in time: a bit of fog, a flash of sun, and it’s gone.
A melancholy thought? Well, yes and no. That’s just the nature of things. We all know that life is racing by. Many of us are reminded anew every time we look in the mirror. But because we serve a God who is at once beyond time and outside of time, we can have confidence that the significance of our lives—in God’s hands, according to his power and his sovereignty—can soar beyond all comprehension.
Peter reminds us: “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”3 In other words, a thousand years passing can register in heaven like the passing of the sun across the sky, from sunrise to sunset. But it also means that a single day in God’s hands can have a thousand years’ worth of significance. Little is much when God is in it, and every moment counts. God may not freeze-frame the sun and moon for us as he did for Joshua, but he can achieve precisely the same effect by expanding the reach and impact of each hour and moment of our lives.
But what of the moments gone by? What of the seasons we have already lived? Are they lost to us? It depends on your perspective. No, we cannot live them again, as much as we might like to (or shudder at the prospect). But remember, God is the Lord of our entire timelines. At the same “moment” he hovers over our present, he also walks in our past and goes before us into our futures. As David writes, “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.”4
In this present moment, I walk with God step-by-step, enjoying his companionship. He has told me in no uncertain terms that the future is his concern, and although I may plan, dream, and prepare as best I can, I am not to worry (see Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-31). And my past?
Ah . . . glorious truth!
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.5
”Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”6
God has wiped the slate clean of all our sin, blotting out all our betrayals and failures and selfish preoccupations, taking it all upon himself, releasing us from its penalty, and crying out on the cross to men, angels, and devils, “Telestoi!” It is finished!
Yes, he has taken away our sins, but he has not taken away the past. And though he will protect us from reliving the guilt and shame and regret of poorly invested days, he also has much to teach us from the past as we walk out the remaining quarter inches of our timelines. God possesses our past, just as he possesses our present and our future. In fact, if we do some looking back under his guidance, we will see things we’ve never seen before, truths that may directly apply to our present and our future.
Far from being a loss to us, the past seasons of our lives are often the means of our deliverance in the present and the very preparation we need to face the future. If you find yourself locked up, shut down, and paralyzed from taking action, the answer to the riddle may very well lie in your past.
What am I suggesting? Just this: I believe that God has left life-transforming secrets on the trail behind us. Your back trail—or mine. If you’ve ever read a Western by Louis L’Amour, you know that when his heroes traverse an unfamiliar stretch of wilderness, they will frequently stop their horses, turn around in the saddle, and study the trail behind them. Why? Because the land they just passed through doesn’t look the same when viewed from the opposite direction. And if they ever have to find their way back, the terrain will seem unfamiliar unless they’ve seen the lay of the land, looking the other way.
It’s the same with our lives. When the Holy Spirit shows us our back trails, we’ll find landmarks and vistas we never even glanced at the first time through. The landscape appears different when we’re looking back from the present.
I believe that God leaves treasure on our back trails.
Gems in the Dust
A friend of mine recently shared a childhood memory of playing with his cousins out in an old apple orchard in southern Oregon. The boys were scuttling around in the dust when the eldest cousin suddenly bent down and picked up a twenty-dollar gold piece. Can you imagine that? How long had that gold coin been lying there, awaiting discovery? Very possibly since those gnarly old apple trees were seedlings.
What would it be like to find a gold coin or some precious stones along the path of life? A ruby, glinting blood red in the sun. A perfectly cut sapphire, blue fire flashing out of every facet. A five-carat diamond, catching daylight and throwing it back in a rainbow prism. Why should such things surprise us? We are sons and daughters of the Great King. Loving Father that he is, he wants us to live well. And no matter what you might think of your past life, the God who loves you has scattered priceless jewels of wisdom along the path behind you. Yes, there may be some bitterly unhappy memories back there and some dark passages you would rather forget. But what has God been doing while you’ve been living your life forward? He has gone behind you, and he has left treasure in the dust.
So, even if the past seems like just a bunch of dust in your memory, look for the gems. You can apply the power of nurtured memories to shape your future. I’m talking about the healthy sorting of memories—culling, and then discarding, the warped impact of the negative past; rediscovering, and then focusing on, the positive elements that have made you who you are.
Yes, we’ve all had negative experiences in the past. The question is whether we will allow those negatives to permanently eclipse our positive heritage. By reflecting on the positives, we can bless and redeem the past. By reclaiming our positive memories, strewn as they are in the dust of the timeline behind us, we can recapture their power to strengthen us for the timeline yet ahead.
I learned this lesson—or I should say was reminded of it—in the company of a three-year-old.
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