"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." --The 10th Doctor, "Doctor Who"
Okay, so I've officially borne my totally nerdy side to you. It's true. I am a Whovian. And kind of generally into sci-fi and fantasy. Well, much more fantasy than sci-fi. Makes you think about things and stuff.
In particular, I love things to do with time... okay, fine, time travel. I confess. And that's probably why I dig "Doctor Who" so much. Well, I mean, from a sci-fi-ey standpoint. From a fantasy standpoint, he's this guy adventuring time and space and helping innocents along the way, along with his trusted companions. He's a guy with a past, who has seen war, who has done things, who lost his homeworld. He's really kind of a sad character, but he never gives up, and he teaches others to do the same.
In time-travel-based fiction, a lot of times you run into these, um, shall we say, "rules." Most people have heard about the butterfly effect, the idea that going back and changing the tiniest of things in the timeline can have drastic effects down the line. Or there's that one thing--the grandfather paradox--where if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, you could never have been born; but if you were never born, how could you go back to kill your grandfather? That's the idea of a paradox.
Then you have those rare ones where people try to either go to or look at the future. You know. Predict what's going to happen so that it can be stopped. In fact, if you've ever seen any of The Terminator films, you know it's a little of both. Robot assassin sent to the past to kill the mother of the guy who led a rebellion in the future. But a good rebellion. The people in the past try to prevent the machines from rising to power. It's actually a bit wonky. Interesting, mildly, but wonky in retrospect.
Don't we try to do that? Look to the future? Examine the past, our history, so we can change the way we're headed?
Really, as goofy of a quote as that first bit was, it has some merit. Well, maybe the word "merit" is a stretch. Just humor me for a bit! We do tend to acknowledge time as a linear progression of cause to effect. We see things coming from one direction and headed to another. Speaking of time, the events we experience, yes, they do all head from present to future; speaking spiritually, though, the directions are rather diverse as there are many roads we can take besides the one that leads to God and to truth.
It seems, though, that we don't fully understand how our perception of time works. For example: why do people say that they "strive to make a better future"? Is that really what's going on? If you think about it, every time the future collides with us in the present, it becomes a part of the past. Really, the future is just a subset of events that we cannot see beyond. That's why scientists are able to predict, for example, the course of a comet, and why an economist, if he is knowledgeable and not crooked, can predict market growth or decline. Yet there are always one or more variables that we are unable to see, which throws a wrench in the whole thing, keeping the future inexorably unpredictable.
Because of this, when we talk about the future, we also talk about what we have learned from the past in order to influence what will soon be past. It's funny, really. The things we argue most about are things that are intrinsically unchangeable: things already done and things to come we can't always control. The only thing we can change is the moment in which we live, yet it is upon the foundation of the unpredictable, ever erratic parts of time that we build our present moments. By doing this, are we not building houses on sand, as the parable goes? The future is ever shifting in that sense; and the past, though irreversible, has slipped through our fingers.
We are left with one massive moment in which to live. Yes, I just called moments massive. They are all massive. Even as I sit at my desk at my job, waiting for some underconfident soul to wander in fretting over his inability to solve x+3=10 algebraically, I am not confined. Though the extent of my hand is only a few feet from my body, God has not put me in a cage. My options for actions are limited only by God's will and my faith in it--and even my faith is a pretty pithy limit to the God of the insanely impossible. Because the moment is massive, how much bigger is the future! Yet how often do we recognize this?
How often do we acknowledge the endlessness of a world created by a masterful God? How often do we become stuck in the circular thought pattern of running away from the past and into an uncertain future? Why do we do this when the past itself has already run away? This "building a better future" cliche is always used in a retrospective sense, usually regretfully, and that's the interesting part. The very phrase has us looking over our shoulders into the Sodoms and Gomorrahs of our lives. When will we realize we're not striving to make a better future but to make a better past? But how can we make a better past if it's full of moments that have already burned down?
When will we stop holding our failures over our own heads when even God won't? Part of what Jesus did when He took up our cross is dissolve the past! He shattered it, killed it, laid it to utter waste! It's over, done, dead and gone! Praise the Lord! We don't have to live there anymore! The past is now irreparable, but we were never called to live in or fix it.
In the wake of moments now shattered, it is only what remains that we can ever hope to touch. It is not for us to put those pieces back together, but to pick up what was left behind in the wreckage, if indeed God would have us do so. Sometimes, the things that remain are the things that caused the wreckage in the first place. An addiction that contributed to the collapse of a family is an example, or malice that comes from the heart through the mouth, pushing people away. It's those things that also need to shatter, or they will continue to shatter us into even smaller shards.
When everything meant to break has been broken, all we have left is what cannot be broken. When the past has shattered as small as the sand, then we can truly start seeking a solid rock on which to build our faith, and that Rock is as big as the moment we live in and the future we have in Christ.
"See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." --anonymous, Hebrews 12:25-28 NASB