Peeking into the Future
Sometimes I think about how odd it would be to catch a glimpse of the future, a quick view of events lying in store for us at some undisclosed date. Suppose we could peer through a tiny peephole in time and chance upon a flash of what was coming up in the years ahead?...Some moments we saw would make no sense at all and some, I suspect would frighten us beyond endurance. If we knew what was looming, we'd avoid certain choices, select option B instead of A at the fork in the road: the job, the marriage, the move to a new state, childbirth, the first drink, the elective medical procedure, that long-anticipated ski trip that seemed like such fun until the dark rumble of the avalanche. If we understood the consequences of any given action, we could exercise discretion, thus restructuring our fate. Time, of course, only runs in one direction, and it seems to do so in an orderly progression. Here in the blank and stony present, we're shielded from the knowledge of the dangers that await us, protected from future horrors through blind innocence.1
This bit of philosophical pondering is offered by Kinsey Millhone, a middle-aged, two-time divorcee detective and junk food junkie star of Sue Grafton's popular "alphabet" mysteries. It comes from the opening paragraph of 'N' Is for Noose, but who among us has not had such thoughts. We wonder, “What if I had known the future? What would I have done differently?” Would I have made the same decisions? What things would I have done differently. I cannot resist asking that question about the man in today's story. Let us for a moment travel back in time to the man's early youth. When the leper enjoyed a wonderful healthy life. Let us take a glimpse into that past when he enjoyed celebrating the festivals with his family; when he worked with his father in the family business. We do not know the specifics but we can guess what life would have been like for a young man living in a rural town in Galilee. He would have worried about the Roman occupation. He would have spent time in the synagogue with his friends listening to the rabbi read from the prophet Isaiah and speak about the coming Messiah. He would have also attended the town feasts and ate till it hurt and drunk till he could not walk. So, what do you think this young man would have done had God given him a glimpse into the future and allowed him to see the years he would live in isolation and despair as a leper?
In ancient Jewish society, lepers were ostracized from village life. They were required to wear torn clothes and call out “Unclean! Unclean!” so that no one would make accidentally contact. Consider what it would be like to be banished to a life of separation and isolation; to live in a world that lacked all human contact. The world of the leper lacked the embrace of friendship and the intimacy of love.
What would this man have done if God had shown him not only his life as a leper but also the day of his healing? What would this man have done if God had given him a choice? A) he could live a healthy but uneventful life in a tiny village in Galilee where he would hear stories about a miracle worker but never actually meet this Jesus of Nazareth or B) he would live for years as a leper until that day when Jesus would come and heal him. What would you choose.
What if God had shown me that three months before my wedding, I would be moving my future bride's mother off the family farm because of a foreclosure? How would I have responded if God allowed me to see myself undergoing two years of chemo-therapy and wondering if the cancer was finally in remission? Would I have began my journey with the same enthusiasm? Would I have still agreed to walk through those difficult years? Or, would I have asked God to rewrite the story?
While I may ponder the possibility, the reality is that I cannot rewrite my past nor dictate the plot for my future. God has a sovereign plan for my life and for yours. For some of you, your future holds great joy and exciting opportunities. Others will encounter difficult times and still other will experience excruciating suffering. Are you willing to embrace God's future regardless?
The easiest thing we can do is to place ourselves at the end of the story; to move from the beginning to the end thereby skipping the discomfort in-between. We much prefer to hear the words “and they lived happily ever after...” rather than “It was a dark and stormy night....” I preferred seeing Aragon's wedding to Arwen much more than the the Fellowship of the Nine's walk through the mine or Moria and their battle with the Orcs and the Balrog. However, you cannot know the joy of healing without enduring the anguish of suffering. The honor of the Purple Heart is only worn by those courageous women and men who know the pain of a battlefield wound.
Lessons from A Leper's Story
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