It was as if I had stepped back in time. For some reason, yesterday’s green forsythias had re-donned their yellow. Tree twigs sported last month’s buds. What was going on? Actually, I had not turned back the clock, only travelling north to New England. White birch boles haloed in pastel green, set against a brilliant blue sky, told me this was not the past, simply someplace north of New Jersey.
Sometimes we wish we could go back – unsay a hasty word, seize a squandered moment, savor a spectacular sunset, sit with a friend. But we can’t. Each moment is a one-use item.
Maybe this is why Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Jesus taught, “We must work the works of him who sent me as long as it is day. Night is coming, when no one can work.” The writer to the Hebrews says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,” and Paul, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.” Now. Today. Tomorrow may not come. Even if it does, we may not find ourselves as inclined to believe as we are now.
Does that mean we live only for each moment, simply seeking immediate gratification here and now? No, the wise live for the future, laying up treasures where neither moth nor rust corrupt nor thieves break through and steal. Our citizenship is in heaven, not earth; our bellies are not our gods. We therefore don’t live for each moment, though we do live very much in each moment. We use this moment (the only one we have) with an eye toward the judgment seat of Christ and his coming kingdom. In the present, for the future.
What if we look back only to realize with horror that we have lost long lengths of our lives through sin and neglect? Sorrow, maybe; despair, never. That is what grace is for – dismissing the past and opening the future. “Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Yahweh. Repent and live!”
But let us do our rethinking and repenting today.