The Perils of Time Travel, Part II

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I wrote last time a couple of reasons why I think God doesn’t allow us to go back and change our past. In a nutshell, our susceptibility to repeating mistakes or our flawed way of fixing things – or both – have potential to get in the way.

But it goes beyond that.

God has a desire and a specific intention for each of our lives. That intention does not include our brokenness or bad choices – we can look at every bad choice and be assured that God would have preferred we chose differently. He doesn’t cause us to make bad decisions, and He is not the author of our bad circumstances or our hurts.

However, He has woven each and every one of those things into His plan for our lives. He is completely sovereign. Nothing surprises Him and nothing ever comes up that He doesn’t know what to do with. And so He takes everything and uses it to build us into the persons we are.

This is a hard concept to get our heads around, but remember our inability to understand something doesn’t make it any less true. Look at Isaiah 55:8-9 – God is essentially saying “I know what I’m doing, even when you don’t get it.”

Scripture is full of stories where people’s poor choices were part of God’s plan. Look at Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Talk about a winding, broken, dysfunctional road.

From Joseph’s hubris in proclaiming to his family his dream in which they bowed before him, to his brothers’ resentful plan to do away with him, to Potiphar’s wife’s lust and false accusation, to the broken promise of the chief butler who was supposed to put in a good word for him.

How many things do you think Joseph would have liked to go back and change? To keep his mouth shut about his dream? To not go looking for his brothers on that fateful day when they sold him into slavery? To avoid being in the wrong place so the Egyptian woman couldn’t make her accusation stick? To keep his interpretation of the butler’s dream to himself?  Yet every one of these things were cobblestones in the road that led to Joseph attaining a position from which he could save his family from starvation, and the future nation of Israel from extinction.

And so, if we went back and fixed our mistakes, how could He use them to build us and others up? How could He use them to further His kingdom or accomplish His plan?

See, and you thought the whole concept of time travel was mind-boggling!

Admittedly, this is difficult on a whole new level for those of us guilty of breaking others’ boundaries.  It feels almost immoral to say that things I did to hurt someone else are being used for my or others’ growth. And it seems callous and insensitive toward the persons I hurt to say their pain is part of the greater good.

Knowing there are some reading this that fall on both sides of hurtful situations, please know that this is not to dismiss or minimize anyone’s hurt, or to justify anyone’s offenses. It’s merely a humble attempt to analyze the inner-workings of the grace and sovereignty of a loving God. I pray that is understood.

So the next time you want to lament your inability to change the past, turn your thoughts instead to the people, circumstances, and opportunities in the present that your pothole-covered path has led you to.

And thank God for it.

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The Perils of Time Travel

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Who doesn’t have some point in the past they wish to go back to?

To make a different decision, right some wrong, take a different path, avoid a situation where you were hurt, or avoid hurting someone else. The reasons to want to change the event can seem as numerous as the moments that have passed since the event took place.

We all have at least one moment in time like that.  I personally have a whole laundry list.

But God, in His divine wisdom, doesn’t allow us to have do-overs, or even a momentary time-jump to make minor adjustments.

Why?

Here are my thoughts:

He knows that we are likely to just screw up all over again.  Maybe when we got there we would decide that we didn’t want to change things after all. Or we might get caught up in the moment and make the same choice – or a worse one.

How many times have we said “I’ll never do that again” and then when the opportunity came to “do that” we fell right into it? What makes us think that “I wouldn’t do that again” would hold up if we went back in time?

Yes, you can say you’ve seen years of consequences. You’d know better than to make the same mistake again. But often when we make a repeat mistake in real time, we’ve seen the consequences it brought last time we did it. Yet in the moment we think that doing it again will yield a different result…or, we just don’t think, period.

Real-time repeat-mistake-maker, meet time-traveling repeat-mistake-maker.

I am convinced that even with perfect knowledge – knowing what we know today while being in the moment yesterday – we would still be vulnerable to making the same mistakes.

He knows we would try to fix it in our way. We are human, with human reasoning, and human emotions.  How do we know that the way we would change that one moment would make everything better?  Even assuming we can know for sure the exact moment to change to make things different (a big assumption), how do we know that righting one wrong wouldn’t lead to wronging three rights in the process?

Or how do we know that instead of doing the right thing, we wouldn’t just do the wrong thing differently to try to avoid the aftereffects? In our humanness, we are just as likely to try to do the wrong thing again, but in such a way so as to outmaneuver the consequences. Which, of course, would just lead to different consequences.

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None of this is profound, is it? We’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to know that when you time travel, you don’t interfere with history. Yet we still would like to try. We think, “Oh no, it would be different if *I* could go back in time. I’d be able to make all the right changes and the result would be a much better life for all.”  Guess what – you wouldn’t, and it wouldn’t.

So where does that leave us? I’m out of time and space (no pun intended) to go any further right now. So I’ll leave that for next time. Until then, leave some comments with your own thoughts below.