If you’ve been keeping up with the superhero universe on the CW lately, you know that time travel has been a frequently rehashed plot device.
And this meme about The Flash is hilarious.
But if you haven’t, let me get you up to speed (pun intended): The parameters for time travel can be boiled down to two possibilities. Either the sequence of events is fixed, and time travel to the past is always what causes the future (predestination paradox) - or time can always be rewritten (temporal mutability).
For movies, literature, and one-off stories, the fixed sequence of events theory is very artistic, and it represents the concept of fate. However, if you’re prone to the constantly changing variables presented to television writers - contracts, cancellations, renewals, and more - it’s easier and more entertaining to play with the malleable timeline theory, which is the analogy to free will.
We can't know which is real, of course, because the only time traveling we do is forward, moment by moment, at normal speed. But the question of free will or fate still applies. Is the concept of fixed time and fate a reality? Or is free will the name of the game?
The answer is both!
Yes, God has a plan for us (citations here), and that’s great. But on this side of glory, we can’t know the future. We don’t know what that Big Plan is with our own lives.
But even at normal speed, when we can’t jump around in time to see how things work out, we understand in our blindness that our everyday choices affect the future. God gave us freedom, and that's an awesome responsibility.
So how are we supposed to make the "right" decisions? If God knows what choices we should be making, how are we supposed to find that one right path amid the myriad options we are presented with each day?
This ominous prospect can become a burden. The struggle of searching for God's “perfect” path can be intimidating or even oppressive.
But this thinking is flawed. There aren’t just two choices - right and wrong. Like some versions of time travel, this is another harmonious paradox.
Allow me to explain. Look at the possibilities diagram here. When presented with a chain of decisions, we often think that God has one single plan laid out for us - and we’d better not mess that up with our stupid free will, because anything besides God’s plan is bad.
This thought process has its roots in the law. When we imagine that any decision not christened with God’s seal of approval is sinful, we tend to overreact. Essentially, we fear that even after we’ve been saved, if we make one wrong step, or knowingly sin even once, God will desert us and we will forfeit our own salvation.
Let me be perfectly clear: YOU CANNOT LOSE YOUR SALVATION. One sin, cognizant or accidental, will not force God to forsake you. Neither will a thousand. We can't allow this sinful thinking to cloud our minds and stunt our growth.
Of course, I’m not saying that we should fall back into licentiousness. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to become so blase about decision-making that we act impulsively or even sinfully.
But there are many choices in our lives that are good and righteous. Decision-making shouldn't be so terrifying it cripples us.
And we can use this to make our decisions easier.
First, we need to change our thinking. Look at the updated diagram. We can eliminate many choices by understanding that they're sinful. Murdering your next door neighbor’s yappy dog is obviously not what God wants for your life.
Take those out of the equation.
Next, we can agree that a portion of the available options are just stupid. If you’ve never picked up a musical instrument and can’t carry a tune in a bucket, it's safe to assume that you’re probably not the next Chris Tomlin.
However, if you get an unmistakable sign from God that you should go in a direction that seems completely unprecedented for you - your very own burning bush - you should go for it. But short of that, understand that God has made you specifically to do what He has planned. So don’t start hitting the drums at worship on Sunday and expect to become a Christian rock star.
So take those out of the equation, too.
Now look at the options you have left. These are what we call “blessable” choices. Any of these decisions have the potential to be blessed by God, specifically because they’re not sinful or stupid. Should you take the men’s Bible study class, or the couple’s class? Volunteer in the nursery, or help with the youth? Feed the homeless or take care of your grandmother? Really, any of these are fine options, ripe with the possibility for the goodness of God.
All that is required is that you make a decision - any good decision - and ask for God to bless it. If He really wants you to go in another direction, He will make that known to you.
And rest easy that you’re not going to mess up the timeline. God is in control, and His plan will happen. You’ve just got to do your part!
Worship & Media Director
Riviera Baptist Church