BY DOMINICK WONG
The Future is a strange thing, an always-“almost” reality that persists outside the boundaries of our existence. We know nothing of this Future. We have never been there. Instead, we find ourselves bound to the Present, asymptotically approaching “tomorrow” but never quite arriving. There is a peculiarly unbearable quality to this permanent, transitional state. A never-ending game of tag that we always seem to lose.
Life would be so much easier if the Future were known. We’d have certainty. We might even find comfort.
It is such comfort that I find myself constantly craving, and quite understandably. The comfort of certainty is so easy to idolize because it promises so much. To know the Future is to be free from worry. Free from the terrifying darkness of ignorance. And so, ever since I can remember, I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with securing this certainty. I plan, plot, and strategize. I place hope in an idea of the Future constructed from the yarn of a feeble imagination; and when the Future inevitably becomes the Present, it becomes clear just how feeble those plans really are. All my efforts to impose structure on the unknown have come to naught. The Present I live in now bears little similarity to the Future I had envisioned a decade, year, month, week… even an hour ago. Yes, the Future is certainly a strange thing.
Yet, the mind-boggling endeavor of trying to understand how God relates to the Future is, by countless orders of magnitude, even stranger than the Future itself, and, for many of us, it can be an unwitting source of temptation. For, one of the most persistent and foundational sins of humanity is making less of God. We are continuously engaging in the age-old industry of humanizing that which made us human. We try to cage God in behind the limits and borders of human experience. In our minds we fashion temporal idols of a contemporaneous “God” who exists in our Present and is bound by its rules.
But for the Great Be-ing – the “I Am” – who existed before Time itself and breathed the very time-space continuum into existence, Time is not a constraint, and the Future is not unknown. This statement should make no sense to us. Human thought, bound by Time, cannot capture the full essence of God’s timelessness. All our notions of cause and effect hinge on Time. But God caused/causes/will cause the very existence of both Time and causality. Indeed, the previous statement that God existed “before Time itself” is nonsensical. What meaning does “before” have beyond the confines of “Time”? Rather, God operates outside of Time, and “the Future” is no meaningful constraint for Him.
It is, perhaps, only within the framework of this strange tension that we can even begin to understand the full metaphysical magnitude of the Incarnation event: Jesus, a personhood of the Godhead, who existed before all of Creation – yes, even “before” Time – chose to operate within Time, and, thus, experience, as we humans do, the “Future”. The extra-temporal Time-maker entered Time. For a split cosmological second, God Himself had a Future. Take a moment and let the overwhelming awesomeness of that truth sink in.
We probably won’t ever fully grasp this awesomeness. It’s such an outlandish proposition, but it’s true. God didn’t just put on a human-shaped coat. He didn’t just move from some higher realm to ours. God placed Himself within Time and experienced the Future as we do, such that Jesus Himself was able to truly say about his Second Coming, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”1 Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”2 God emptied Himself.
Isn’t that crazy?
The metacosmic majesty of what Jesus did is so immense, and yet, I confess the worries of the Future can, all too often, seem even bigger. Why is that? Why do calendars and schedules, work shifts and due dates, test scores and projects and applications and interviews fill up so much of my mind?
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”3. I read verses like this and nod my head in agreement, but in spite of everything, my heart’s most visceral reaction to the troubles of tomorrow remains a predictable scream of worry. “The Future is scary, God, and ignoring that fact is easier said than done.” There is so much that is unaccounted for, so much that we can’t control. And God agrees.
The author of the Book of James writes, “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”. It’s a grim situation. We are so small in comparison to the countless multitude of things that can and will happen in the Future. We can’t even begin to understand what this Future has in store. But God is even bigger. Which is why James goes on to say in the next verse, “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
The Lord’s will is the Future. Bearing this in mind, the fact that Jesus experienced the Future as we do becomes much less of a mystery.For, on a fundamental level that comes of being one with God, Jesus had a certain trust that the Lord’s will would come to pass. This is why He tells us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”6. Jesus had this kind of trust and was able to pray this prayer in true earnestness, for Jesus is the kingdom. He is the fulfillment of the Future.
This truth changes everything. The Future need no longer be uncertain and strange. The Future has been made clear. God will triumph. No, rather, God, not being bound by Time, has already triumphed, He has always triumphed. It is in this triumph, in the certain victory of the will of God that we can find hope.
And this is no ordinary hope that we have been given. The “hope” of the world is such that the very word, “hope,” seems to bear with it a conditional, tentative connotation. We “hope” because something may or may not happen. Hope belongs to children and fools. Hope is the last resort. Because the Future is always bigger and darker and less predictable. But not anymore. For all of us who believe, Hope is assured. It is the first resort, and the Future is one of certain joy.
I have not fully grasped these truths. I still worry and fear the Future. On this broken Earth, it may, perhaps, always feel as if the Future is something to be feared. But a truth that I am coming to realize more and more is that, yes, while God is so much greater than anything we could possibly comprehend, and while the way he sees the Future is so far beyond anything we could possibly know, God Himself, as Jesus, made Himself known. As Jesus, He shone a light into the Future and made it clear, and we know that it is a good Future. And so, my challenge to myself, and to you, Reader, is simply this: find unparalleled joy in the fact that, because of Jesus, we can pray with utmost certainty, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Dominick is a kid from Mission Viejo, CA in his third year, who should probably be
doing his sociology readings, but much prefers talking to folks like you
Photo courtesy of Queena Xu.