Time. It's a concept that has always intrigued me. It's something we focus so heavily upon, a fact that is never clearer than at the start of a new year.
I did nothing to celebrate New Year's. I never do. It just isn't a big deal to me for some reason. I didn't make any New Year's resolutions. Again, I just don't see the point. If I want to make a resolution, I'll make it when I think that it's something I need to do, not wait around until January 1, nor think something up just to have one for the new year.
But all the posts I've read on blogs, newsgroups, message boards, email lists, etc. have got me thinking about time and its significance. And it's hard to think about time without thinking of eternity... and thinking of eternity is -- well, it's mind-boggling.
I'd like to share some thoughts about time, and timelessness, that I've put together over the years.
It started when I was eleven years old. My grandfather had just died, and as I lay that first night in bed trying to go to sleep, he was of course all I could think about. It wasn't the first death of someone I knew, but it was the first death of someone I truly loved, so coping with death and trying to wrap my mind around it was all new to me.
Then suddenly, the thought struck me that I didn't even know for sure where he was... was he a Christian? Was he now in heaven? Or wasn't he? I had no idea, and I felt incredible guilt that I had no idea. I began to think back... did he go to church? I didn't even know that. He didn't go to my church... and he never talked about church... maybe he didn't. Most of my family members talked about God a lot, especially in teaching us kids, but I couldn't remember a time when he ever had. I panicked. Maybe he wasn't -- and now it was too late. There was nothing I could do.
I don't know that an adult brain would ever even think to do something like this, but you know what they say about having faith like a child -- I did the only thing I could think of to do. I prayed that he was saved. I prayed over something that had already happened.
Can you do that? Certainly you can pray about things that are happening. And you can pray about things that are going to happen. But isn't it too late to pray about something that has already happened? It's too late to change anything now -- what good can it possibly do to pray about it?
Stick with me. I have an answer to that now. The question, of course, never even occurred to my 11 year old self. And I prayed not only that he was saved, but that somehow God would reveal to me that he was without me having to ask. Because that was a question I absolutely did not want to ask anyone.
Well, during the visitation, I was standing by the coffin with my dearly beloved great-aunt, my grandfather's sister. Because my grandmother had died when my father was a baby, she had raised my father and was therefore like a grandmother to me herself. I therefore spent those visitation hours glued to her side, and overheard every word she spoke to all the people that came to the visitation. And one of those comments I overheard was, in response to someone's comment that he looked so peaceful, she said, "Yes, he's in heaven now... how well I remember the day ten years ago when he accepted the gift of salvation and changed his life."
Prayer answered! Yes, he was saved; and yes, I got to find out without asking.
Many years later, when I was in college, I found myself dwelling on that grandmother that I had never known, my dad's mother who died when he was a baby as I mentioned, because of some information I had discovered about her that I won't go into here. :) I found myself wondering the same thing about her -- was she in heaven? Because based on the information I found, and the knowledge that my grandfather wasn't saved until decades after her death, I was thinking it pretty unlikely that she was. And while I never knew her, that thought really disturbed me. After all, she was part of me, somehow... and it became very important to me that her eternity was being spent in heaven.
Remembering the answered prayer of my youth, I threw logic to the wind and prayed again. I prayed that my grandmother, who by this time had died over forty years earlier, was a Christian -- and again, I prayed that somehow I could know that she was. This seemed very unlikely, as nobody EVER talked about her -- and as I said, she had already been gone for over forty years! And once more... can you really pray about the past? Yes, it had worked for me before, but this seemed like a really huge request.
This prayer wasn't answered quite as immediately, but it wasn't more than a couple months later that we got a Christmas letter from that great-aunt, the very one I mentioned before. Never before in my life had we gotten one of these from her. She told me afterward (out of the blue, unquestioned) that she doesn't even know why she sent us that letter, she never does, she writes one every year but only sends it out to people she doesn't see much of, so they will know what's going on with her -- but we already know it all so there's no reason to send us the letter. But for some reason, she just thought she would that year.
For some reason, eh? You won't believe what that letter contained. It mentioned my aunt's move to California, and she explained for the sake of her recipients that this aunt was the daughter of her brother and her brother's wife, who had died when my aunt was but a little girl. She then wrote an entire paragraph about this brother's wife -- my grandmother -- including the fact that THE VERY SUNDAY before she died, she had come forward in the Chapel and given her life to the Lord.
Okay -- you might call the first time a coincidence, but the second time too? I puzzled over it quite a bit, but was convinced that yes, a prayer today could indeed affect something that had happened in the past. I didn't fully understand how, but I knew that God could do anything, even what seemed impossible to us. I thought at the time that of course God would have known back forty years ago that I was GOING to pray that prayer, and could have answered it then with the foreknowledge of what was going to happen.
I was close, and maybe even right, but there is a theological concept behind all of this that is absolutely amazing... mind-blowing... incredible. The concept is that God is the "I AM" over my "was."
This is a lesson title invented by Beth Moore, and I won't go into the full theological background of this truth, but it's really quite fascinating, and if you're interested, I encourage you to go watch it for yourself. Click here to view all of Beth's video teachings at Life Today and scroll down to find The 'I AM' Over Your 'Was'. The piece I'm talking about is explained in Part 4 but you really will want to watch the whole series because there is so much background to it that you won't want to miss. And for that matter, while you're there, watch all her other teachings too, because I'm telling you, this woman is inspired.
But back to my topic, the key verse that delves into this truth is John 8:58, where Jesus states, "Before Abraham was, I AM." Did you catch that? God doesn't live in time. He IS in the past, just as he IS in the present and the future. He's still back there working in my past. It's not over and done with, as we so often say! He's still there in it working!
He could answer my prayers about my grandfather because He existed simultaneously in 1985 when I prayed, and in 1975 when He answered the prayer. He could answer my prayers about my grandmother because he existed simultaneously in 1993 when I prayed, and in 1951 when He answered the prayer.
ISN'T THAT COOL?
So I encourage you in this "new year" to us to remember that God is still working in all of our old years. He's still there in our past. And if there's something regrettable in your past that is "over and done with" -- recognize that it's not. Pray for God, who is still back there in your "was", to redeem your was, which will in turn redeem your "is". How many of us have a less than stellar "is" because of something that happened in our "was"? It's time to give our "was" to the God who IS, the God who is present in our was, the God who is Almighty over our was, and pray for Him to do His mighty work in it.