And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you . . .” (Genesis 16:5).
What if you could travel in time?
What if you could revisit the moments that didn’t go so well, the careless word you spoke, the appointment you missed, the poor decision you made? Most of us don’t have to think too hard about the moments to which we would return or the events we would rewind if we could.
This was the premise of the 2013 film About Time. On one level this film is a love story between the two leading characters, Tim and Mary. At the age of 21, in a coming of age conversation with his father, Tim learns that he has the ability to travel in time. His father explains the basic rules and pitfalls of time travel as well as the physical act by which such a thing happens.
From that point on we see Tim using his extraordinary gift to fine tune certain critical moments in his life. When he meets the love of his life, Mary, he goes back in time repeatedly to get it just right. Each time he learns a little more about her and with each ‘new’ meeting he shows up in her life as the man of her dreams.
Early in the film the time travel gift seems like the remedy to all of life’s woes, the immediate corrective to every misstep. But as the story unfolds we see that going back in time for a do-over is really no gift at all. Rather, it is an enormous burden. What we see is a young man who carries the weight of trying to get his life just right. But fixing one thing over here has unexpected ramifications over there. Tim’s story shows us that trying again and again to get things right is not a burden we were meant to live with.
In place of time travel, what God actually gives us in real life is grace.
The Messes We Make
When Abraham and Sarah came up with a way to have the child God had promised through a scheme they had devised, they made a mistake. Their insistence on making something happen made them all miserable. Sarah resented the pregnant Hagar. Hagar was harassed by the embittered Sarah. Abraham was blamed for doing what his wife had urged him to do. What had seemed so smart was quickly shown to be a train wreck.
The real mistake, of course, was a failure of trust in God. Abraham and Sarah had not allowed God to truly be God in their lives. The consequences of this decision were real. Ishmael was a reality that would never be undone.
But that mistake did not ruin or negate God’s plan for Abraham. God did not write him off and move on to someone else. God did not come up with added demands so that Abraham and Sarah could make up for what they had done. And God certainly didn’t ask them to come up with a better plan. God remained faithful and kept his promise.
That’s what God does with all of us. We don’t get to time travel and try again – because God’s desire for us not that we keep trying until we get it right. God’s desire is that we live by faith, depend on his grace. Even if we’ve made a mess with our decisions. God redeems our messes.
Keep walking with God. Lean into his grace. Be done with regrets, bitterness, and shame. All of that has been covered and redeemed in Jesus – but we’re getting ahead of our story. More to come.
We give you thanks, O God, for your faithfulness and for the grace that covers what we would do over if we could. Teach us to walk with you today, trusting that you are guiding us and that what you have for us is good. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.