I think God kind of lives life backwards. He has a calendar and one date marked: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. We don’t know when that is, but He is viewing everything from that point in time.
Getting ready to attend the Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference (TGCW16) in June, I’m studying the first letter of Peter. And there it is. The whole book is just littered with references to this great cosmic event to come.
It is on God’s mind. And he tells us it should be on ours too….
Which reminds me of my dear daughter Grace when she was a child. She also has to live life backwards. Especially when it comes to stories.
I recall one afternoon sitting on our family couch with my two girls snuggled up to me for a good read aloud book, The Courage of Sarah Noble. A fabulous little story of a girl and her father crossing New England in the early Colonial days in search of a new home for their family. It’s a journey that has its dangers. Wild animals. People of all sorts who mean harm. That sort of thing.
And just as this little girl and her father are about to set off, her mother takes Sarah’s face in her hands and says, “Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble.”
End of chapter one. And I tell my sweet girls that we’ll read more tomorrow.
But Grace says, “Can I see the book?”
I know what she wants. She wants to read the last couple pages and make sure everything turns out all right. But I want her to be surprised! That’s no fun!
She’s not giving up. Grace is getting a little distressed. She starts to grab for the book.
“No, Grace! You must wait!” I hold the book high above my head. But she literally starts climbing up my body! Now I’m getting a little frustrated. I begin to place the book on a top shelf, but I can see that Grace is so determined she may hurt herself getting up to the book.
“Fine,” I resign, handing it to her. “You’re going to ruin it for yourself.”
But she didn’t. She actually enhanced it.
Grace sat down and eagerly turned to the end of the book. (Suspicions confirmed.) She carefully read each word. And then a slow smile crept over her face. She carefully closed the volume and placed it on the table.
The next afternoon and from then on when we read the book, Grace sat there calmly, taking every cliff hanger with a reasonable amount of dignity. Oh, she still covered her ears and closed her eyes during the hard parts…but she didn’t get off the couch and run away.
I think she enjoyed the story more.
Living life backwards is like that…if you can do it.
But it’s not easy. God says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13) It’s going to take a concentrated effort.
I feel like God is setting us out on our journey and taking our face in his hands and telling us to keep up our courage.
And He should know. Elsewhere he tells us to “[Look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Living life backwards doesn’t diminish the pain and loss, but it empowers us to endure. To stay on the couch and not run away.
I was talking to a friend the other day who is working through a few disappointments, and I asked her, “If you knew that this would all resolve beautifully in five years, what would you do now? How would you spend those five years?”
And it’s a good question for me, actually.
Of course, that’s not what God is promising exactly. But in another sense, that is what he’s saying. The book of First Peter calls us to endure trials; to love one another from a pure heart; to believe in One who was rejected; to abstain from the passions that wage war against our soul; to do good; to have sympathy, a tender heart, and a humble mind; and to rejoice insofar as we share Christ’s sufferings.
But always with the End in mind.
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4)
Lord, please give me the precious gift of faith to live my life backwards, to start at the end in order to work out the middle, to view every event from the Revelation of Jesus Christ that is to come.