In Easter Time
Maybe because it’s Lent, or maybe because life has simply demanded it of late, but for one reason or another I have been pondering the nature of God. Not His blessings or his actions, but rather the manner of His existence. How does His life interact with our own? How is it that we can have free will and yet there still be truth in Paul’s statement “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28)? If God is eternal, that means that He exists outside of time. So how can we, creatures bound by time, possibly grasp His magnitude or understand how He works? Better minds than mine have had a go at these questions, but it seems that ruminating is part of my journey.
It’s not hard to find Biblical references to God being eternal. I suppose that is one of the foundational truths of our faith. God always was and always will be. God always is. When Moses asks God what to say when the people ask “Who sent you?”, the name God gives Himself is “I am” (Exodus 3:14). Let your mind chew on that for a minute.
For anyone else, that’s an incomplete sentence. I don’t know about you, but I am here. I am writing. I am going to be late for work. I have been many things; I was this or that. I will be dead one day. Not so for God. He won’t become anything, because He already is. He exists as He always has and always will. If God always is, He does not, cannot, change. Indeed, even the fact that I, as a writer of English, have to change the word “am” to “is” belies how inadequate is human ability to fully communicate this idea.
God exists outside of time, and yet He created time. Why? Was it so we wouldn’t lose our tiny, little minds? Because He knew we would need linear time in order to come to some dim understanding of Him? There’s plenty of evidence in the Bible to support this idea. Especially when it comes to the Israelites, God uses time to work His people over. The Egyptian captivity, the wandering in the desert, the Babylonian exile, all of it was giving Israel time to turn toward God. Even Jesus fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). Indeed, part of what made Jesus fully human was his existence in finite, historical time.
But here’s the part that really blows my mind. God is eternal. He created time and, thus, can exist outside of it, just as you or I can exist outside the narrative of a book. It follows, then, that God can experience time, all of it, at the same time. Your past, my present, someone else’s future, is all happening simultaneously to Him. And this is where grace comes in, where I understand that Jesus’s death is a bigger deal than I first realized. It’s not the He has seen our sins; He is seeing them right now. Every dumb thing I’ve said, every stupid mistake you’ve made, it’s all the same to God. Even the foolishness of the future is just as real to Him as everything else. I have no idea how I’m going to screw up tomorrow, but He does (and I’m sure it will be a spectacular disaster). He’s seen it, though, and is seeing it right now.
And you know what? He doesn’t care. Just as all that hurtful mess constantly exists, so too does Jesus’s death, God’s love, and our forgiveness. Does that make our sin okay? Of course not. Do we need to repent at every chance? You bet. Do we need to forgive as we’ve been forgiven? And how. At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to one thing: whether or not we’ve accepted Christ. He died for each person’s sins individually, and by saying “Yes, I believe that,” each of us gives God the chance to whitewash our lives, past, present, and future.
That’s what Easter’s all about, Charlie Brown. I don’t have to crawl over a mile of glass when I act like a selfish jerk. God has already watched me do it and has already forgiven it. Likewise, He’s done the same thing for those who hurt me in turn. Remembering this, it’s time to move forward and make tomorrow better than today.
“….have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” ~ Matthew 22:31-32