As we get close to the end of something, looking back into the past seems to be second-nature to us. We become nostalgic and reflective about what’s gone on, even if we are not normally nostalgic or reflective people. Looking back helps us to see something powerful that we might have missed otherwise.
Last night, we wrapped up a ministry that I’ve had the privilege to help lead for nearly six years. We had the last Crash service at North Phoenix. We’re preparing for some exciting new things beginning in August. (You can get all the details on our website.)
As I reflected on all that’s gone on in this community and all that’s gone on in me over those six years, I saw a glimpse at who I’ve become – that I wouldn’t have believed six years ago. If I had sat down with the Scott who first spoke at Crash in the beginning of June 2006, and unpacked for him the pieces of who I am today, he wouldn’t have believed it.
I believe the same is true in you. Go back six years or sixteen years or sixty years. Have a conversation with your past self. Would that person believe the truth of who you have become today? Look at the steps you’ve taken along the way. The keypoints in the storyline of your life. The moments you planned and the moments you didn’t plan. The things you wanted to happen and the things you fought against with all of your might.
I spent some time studying the life of Gideon lately. The Bible records his story in Judges 6-7. He was transformed from being a frightened farmer to a mighty military general. He goes through a name change and sees God move through him in a mighty and powerful way. After his military victory, he could look back and see who he used to be and how far he came because of the grace of God.
If you own an Apple computer, you know what this looks like. Apple computers have an application named Time Machine. Time Machine is the application that manages a user’s backups on an external hard drive. The picture below is a screen shot from Time Machine.
All of the user’s backups line up into infinity. Ideally, the user can go back to any of their past backups and access the files as they existed when that backup was created. It’s a great program and it looks even cooler than it works.
In Gideon’s life, the first backup is the moment when he was afraid and hiding. He trusts God and destroys the altars of a false god. He steps out and calls an army. He trusts God as God whittles down his army from 30,000 to 300. He follows God’s unorthodox battle strategy. He rejoices when God wins the victory for the people.
If your life were entered into Time Machine and you were able to look back across all of those moments, stacked up into space, what would you see in the transition from the first “backup” until now? What would you learn about how God been at work in your life? How stark would the change and transformation be in you? What would you see that you had forgotten or lost sight of?
As things end and begin in our lives, wisdom tells us to look back into our past, mine the lessons about God and ourselves from those experiences, and then fix our eyes on what lies ahead so we can live forward. We may understand life looking back, but we can only live looking forward.
I hope you’re learning and growing because of what you’ve discovered in your past. I pray that it is equipping and empowering you to embrace what God is doing in your future. I am excited and hopeful about what lies ahead for me because I see clearly what God has done in me through my “Time Machine”. If the past is any indication, things are about to get wild!
(This illustration regarding Gideon and Time Machine was taken from Week 2 of the Unlikely Heroes series at Crash. You can listen to the full message here.)