Last week the pastors I serve with went on a retreat to do some planning. It was a helpful time of looking back to review and looking forward to plan. I like doing work like that, because, I like to have some idea about what’s coming up down the road. Even though the future is unknown and unknowable, I still like to plan a route and predict the possible twists and turns I might encounter. That’s why I am so challenged by the world-view of the Bible that presents a different, better way of moving in the future.
In the world of the Old Testament, people did not conceive of themselves as facing the future and walking into it. Instead, they saw themselves backing into the future. This idea is so foreign, so freeing, that it deserves some explanation.
Time, for a Hebrew in the Old Testament, was not a commodity to expend as it is in our day. It was more like a stream to be experienced. The ripples left behind in the stream revealed, in various, wonderful ways, the great faithfulness of God for His people in history. This is why, for instance, the Psalms are replete with the injunction “to remember” God’s faithful actions in the past. By remembering the stories of how God was faithful, we affirm our faith in the God who was faithful, is faithful and will always be faithful.
Abraham, called the “father of faith” in the Bible, is an example of how faith helps us walk into the future. Abraham had already experienced God’s faithfulness by the time God invited Abraham to go to a distant land. That’s why Abraham could step out, not knowing the final destination. And with each step he took, he could look back to see evidence of God’s guiding hand. In that way, Abraham was able to back into the future that God was creating for him.
And that’s the key for you and me: As we look back to remember God’s faithfulness we receive courage to back into the future that is unknown to us, but is knowable to God.
Can you see yourself backing into the future? Can you see that the burden of creating the future is not yours? Of course you and I need to make decisions about our life and its direction by making plans and setting goals. But, that look into an unknown future must be done while looking backward. By looking backward we see the trail of God’s faithfulness that gives us the confidence we need to step forward in faith.
Maybe you are facing a crossroads, wondering whether to take this road or that road. Maybe you need to be reminded that the future God holds out to all of us is His responsibility to unveil. Our job is to remember how God has faithfully guided us, and to be confident that He will continue to reveal His faithfulness to us. From there, we step out, one step at a time, backing into His future.