Have you ever tried living in the future? I have, and I can tell you it’s a flat-out failure. As a strategy for escaping or even resolving present problems, it simply doesn’t work.
Audrey Niffenegger is the author of a fascinating love story, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Like all good love stories, the main characters, Henry and Clare, have to prove their love despite all obstacles. In their case, the most nettlesome obstacle is Henry’s odd habit of slipping in and out of time. To complicate matters, this strange phenomenon occurs without warning and without his permission. Though such a condition would be obstacle enough for any relationship, things are made more difficult by the quirky fact that whenever Henry time travels, he does so without clothes. Whenever he arrives in his new time zone, which may be many years in the future, he has to find a way to adjust to his altered circumstances while looking for creative ways to clothe and provide for himself. (Remember, naked men don’t carry wallets.) Over and over, he arrives at his destination totally unprepared to deal with it.
This wonderfully strange story is a great parable for understanding why living in the future simply doesn’t work. We don’t have the resources for dealing with it. For one thing, we’re not yet the people we will be. Even if we had the ability to time travel, we might be unnerved by future events, little realizing that God intends to use the intervening years to make us into the kind of people who can handle them.
Plus, unlike Henry, our anxiety about what might happen will propel us into a false future, one that likely will never happen. That leaves us tilting at windmills, wasting precious energy that could better be spent on living fully in the present moment, which may indeed provide us with a better future.
By making the case that we can’t live in the future, I’m not saying we shouldn’t plan for the future in practical ways. I am only making the point that we can’t spend our best energies on worrying about what might or might not happen. That’s a recipe not for peace but for insomnia.
Several years ago I picked up an all-weather jacket at a local thrift shop. The coat was in great condition. Before washing it, however, I went through all the pockets to make certain the previous owner hadn’t left anything behind. The search yielded a five-dollar bill tucked away in an inside zippered pocket. Since I had only paid two dollars for the jacket, my thrift-shop purchase had netted a 150 percent profit.
Like the money tucked into the pocket of my jacket, God’s Word hidden in your heart can net an enormous return on investment. But how exactly do you hide his Word? One way is through simple memorization. If you’re like me, however, you might find that a challenge. I recall how amazed I was to learn that a friend had committed entire books of the Bible to memory while I struggled to memorize one short psalm. Once, I made the mistake of remarking to an elderly woman that I was too old to memorize Scripture. “Nonsense!” she shot back. “I didn’t start memorizing Bible passages until I was sixty-five!” Since she knew an awful lot of them by heart, my handy excuse was quickly demolished.
Surely, even the least mnemonically gifted among us (that’s me) can memorize a few Scripture passages. Here are a couple from Psalms to get you started. Think of them as little bullet prayers to put in your arsenal. Commit them to memory, and then start shooting them whenever you feel assailed by anxious, doubting thoughts.
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. (28:7)
Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. (32:10)
If you stock your heart with the Word of God, you will find yourself netting great dividends, both now and in the future, helping you to experience more of his peace.
If first words have anything to do with a child’s destiny, then my youngest daughter, Luci, is destined for a career in sports. Despite my eagerness to hear her baby lips finally form the word mama, what came out first was the word ball. To this day Luci is fascinated by balls. Footballs, basketballs, softballs, baseballs, volleyballs, soccer balls. If it bounces, she wants it.
The first year Luci played on her middle-school basketball team, I loved watching the players improve as the season progressed. Though most of the games were marked by good sportsmanship, there was an occasional lapse. During one of the games, a player on the opposing team couldn’t keep her hands off her opponents. I watched in consternation as she pushed, shoved, and elbowed my daughter at every opportunity. Surprisingly, the referees never called it. After the game, Luci’s coach promised to file a complaint against the referees who had worked the game. Because of their inaction, a game that should have been safe and fun was anything but.
Though I am not a dyed-in-the-wool sports fan, I know enough to realize that a good referee or umpire can help make or break a game. With that in mind, let’s consider the umpire that Paul chose to speak of in Colossians 3:15. Reminding the early Christians of the importance of maintaining unity, he said,
“Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.”
The word rule in this verse comes from the Greek word brabeuo, which refers not to the rule of a king but to the work an umpire does at a game. With that in mind, you could paraphrase the verse like this:
“Let the peace that comes from Christ act as an umpire in your hearts.”
In other words, let it make the call so that whenever you have a difference with another believer, Christ’s peace will have the last, definitive word.
Several years ago, when I was having the attic remodeled into an office, the carpenter doing the work discovered two inscriptions. One was on the brick chimney that transects the space. The other was on two-by-fours that had been hidden behind a wall of bead board. While the second one was signed by the builder, both inscriptions indicated that construction on the house had begun in July 1925.
Old houses are famous for their charm, even though living in them is not always a charming experience. Sometimes simple activities remind you of just how old they are. Take ironing, for instance. Whenever I forget to turn off the TV or the ceiling fan when plugging in the iron in an upstairs bedroom, the circuit breaker trips, shutting off the power. Though I think of it as an inconvenient interruption, the circuit breakers are providing an invaluable service, preventing me from overloading the electrical system, risking fire or even electrocution.
Likewise, in our own lives, God has placed natural circuit breakers that can alert us to the fact that we are on overload. Say, for instance, you are trying to get ahead at work and putting in loads of overtime. Or say you can’t give no for an answer when anyone asks you to do something. Or say you are spending every minute ferrying your children to activities so they won’t miss out. Eventually, your body will attempt to get you to slow down. Natural circuit breakers come in many forms, including headaches, fatigue, irritability, illness, and weight gain.
When these things begin to manifest, resist the temptation to brush them off as inconvenient interruptions. Instead, take the time to examine your life prayerfully, asking God to show you if your priorities are his priorities. If you sense the need to make course corrections, don’t delay. Your peace depends on paying attention to the natural circuit breakers that operate in every human life.