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.

Self-Forgiveness

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I have been told that the concept of forgiving one’s self is not in the Bible.

And admittedly, you can’t find any variation of the phrase ‘forgiving yourself’ in scripture. But I have to differ with those who state that because it isn’t called out specifically, it is not a valid concept. I believe that argument comes out of a misunderstanding of biblical forgiveness.

Let’s examine.

First, we should revisit Mirriam-Webster’s definition of ‘forgive’:

“to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone): to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)”.

Forgiving means releasing the debt. As has been said, it’s not about ignoring the hurt, denying the pain, or excusing the offense. It’s about accepting reality, and then choosing not to hold it against the person who hurt us. It’s not about absolving the offender from guilt – only God can do that, as Jesus acknowledged in Mark 2:5-12. But forgiveness from our perspective is about releasing the person from the responsibility of having to make it up to me for offending me. And hence, breaking the chains of bitterness that unforgiveness brings.

I also can’t give that release to a person on behalf of someone else. I cannot on behalf of Frank forgive Bill of an offense against Frank, and declare he doesn’t owe anything to Frank – only Frank can do that. And Frank needs to do that, because it’s his heart that is in bondage given the alternative.

I hope that made sense. Because all of that is important to understand before we get to the next question…

What happens when the person who has offended me is me?

When I make poor choices that I have to live with, when I have put myself in a bad position and caused myself pain and angst – in a very real sense, I have offended myself. Given this, I can choose two avenues: (1) I can live my life in regret for that thing that I did and continue to hold myself (the offender) in bondage to self-loathing and remorse, or (2) I can choose to loose myself (the offender) from the responsibility of having to make it up to me, and break the chains.

When we think of it that way, option 2 is obviously the biblical response.

This in no way excuses what I’ve done. I can’t say “I’ve forgiven myself and so everything is okay now.” It also does not absolve me from accountability – only God can do that. (However, I can claim 1 John 1:9 that says very clearly that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us.”)

Neither am I forgiving myself on behalf of others who were offended by the same act (just like I can’t forgive Bill on behalf of Frank, I also can’t forgive myself on behalf of someone else who I hurt).

You see, it all comes down to forgiveness being a matter of healing for the hurt person, an avenue of freedom to the offended. That’s the biblical concept.

So, whether the term self-forgiveness is or is not in scripture, if one has the proper understanding of what forgiveness is about, it can and should be applied to anyone who offends us…even ourselves.