Back in the early ‘80s, following an encounter with sizzling deep-fry oil, I paid a visit to the emergency room with burns to the face and eyes. (Yeah, I know; fried foods’ll kill ya.) A nurse told me it was the second such case she’d seen that day. In the earlier incident, a toddler had reached for a bowl of hot bacon grease on the kitchen counter while her mother was making breakfast, spilling molten fat it all over her hand and face.
I was a young mother myself at the time, and the mental image of that scene as I envisioned it haunted me for long afterward. How that mother must have wished she could go back in time!
I suppose we’ve all wished that at one time or another. The old adage Hindsight is better than foresight is oft repeated because it’s all too true. The problem is, no one’s been able to figure out how to acquire hindsight until it’s too late to use it.
We humans have probably always found the concept of time travel intriguing. I’m not all that familiar with ancient literature, but I’ve read that some of the most world’s most venerable classics suggested the idea long before H. G. Wells published The Time Machine in 1895.
The yearning for a do-over is probably one reason for our fascination with time manipulation. Another might be the desire to conquer a powerful force that holds us in its grip.
We’ve made great strides in travel across land, sea, and air; we can communicate instantly with people on the other side of the planet; we’ve even been to the moon. Yet we’re more at the mercy of time than the pre-wheel-era ancients were daunted by distance. They, at least, could travel the land on foot; we can only let time take us where it will at its own inexorable pace.
Is there a wheel of time waiting to be invented? Some would have us believe it already exists.
I recently stumbled on a snippet of a Charlie Chaplain film in which one of the extras in the background appears to be talking on a cell phone. Perhaps you’ve seen the clip. Discussion on the subject abounds, with comments, both serious and snide. If you’re bored, on online search of “time travel proof” can keep you entertained for quite some time.
It’s not hard to dismiss the idea that the woman in the Chaplain film was on a cell phone. Today when we see someone in such a pose, “she’s on the phone” is the first thing that comes to mind. But there are other reasons for a person to put a hand to the side of her head like that. Using a compact ear trumpet makes the most sense to me (perhaps to hear the director’s instructions). But the gesture could have a number of possible interpretations.
In any event, time is an intriguing thing. Though we know it moves at the same rate consistently, sometimes it weighs heavy on our hands and on other occasions it zips past before we can grab hold of it. The scriptures tell us God has control over time just as he has authority over all his creation. But for some reason, he doesn’t allow do-overs. If he did, wouldn’t he have sent Adam and Eve back to the starting line instead of paying the penalty for their (and our) sin?
The Bible is full of stories of repentant people being forgiven by a merciful God. But, eternally forgiven or not, their sins’ earthly consequences always remain. Examples abound: Adam and Eve, as mentioned above; David, in 2 Samuel 11 and 12; and King Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 (along with 2 Kings 23:26-27).
We can speculate all we want about going back in time to correct errors. But it would seem that in reality, our actions and the events those deeds cause remain on the books forever.
I suppose, then, if we’re to benefit from hindsight in a practical way, it must be by learning from the experiences of those who have gone before. More importantly, we might give serious heed to the testimony of the one who is himself the beginning and the ending (Revelation 1:8) and who tells us the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).