Here we are living in time you and I. Yesterday is gone. We are waiting for tomorrow. And the present moment eludes us even as we try to grasp it.
God lives in eternity, where there is no yesterday. There is no tomorrow. God is not waiting for the sunset or the dawn. God lives in the eternal now where there is neither past nor future.
God sees you and me at this moment, not just as we are now, but already dead and buried and judged, and safely home with Him forever with life behind us. This God sees now as you and I are worrying and fretting about a future that may never come.
It makes us dizzy even to think about it.
— Fr. Leo Clifford
I have this image of God standing outside of the universe and looking at this gigantic poster on the wall. The poster is the timeline of History. (The capital H in History is for all of History of the natural universe of Time and Space which God has created.) This timeline is not static. Time seems to flow like a mighty golden river. It ebbs and flows, but always flows downstream. There are no tributaries, no forks, no whirlpools, no backwashes. The narrow source of this river of time, along with its broad mouth, begins and ends with God.
Upon closer inspection, the water of this river of time is not water but a flowing tapestry of golden threads. Bundles upon bundles of golden threads meandering through the tapestry, all of them are touching, twisting, and weaving in and around each other. Each golden thread represents the life record of a human being. Some threads are short. Some are long. Some threads barely shine, their luster tarnished. Some threads shine brilliantly, illuminating the threads around it. Some threads barely seem to touch other threads while others meander back and forth across the river in wide arcs, weaving around many other threads. Whenever two or more threads touch, the luminosity of the threads usually remains the same; but sometimes they become brighter; sometimes they become duller. Many threads touch side-by-side. Some threads seem to overlap others; while some threads appear to support momentarily other threads from underneath. Many threads appear in pairs, as if bonded together, twisting and weaving together through the tapestry of time. Occasionally, a pair of threads seem to merge momentarily into one, and then re-emerge with a third, new thread.
Of course this analogy of time from God’s prospective has some limitations. First, God is not separable from the universe and time. The universe and time, for a lack of a better word, are contained within and of God. God could exist without the universe, but the universe could not exist without God. The creator and the created cannot be separated much like a
Nonetheless, in less than a blink of God’s eye, we are dropped into this river of flowing time. We live our lives, and then are plucked back out. In that brief moment of existing within time, we are transformed. We are transformed, through our choices, into either a heavenly creature or a hellish creature, a creature that will spend eternity with God, or away from God.
Kind of puts things into perspective. We fret and flutter over the littlest of details and forget about the big picture. Are we striving to illuminate or shine within our golden thread of life? Are we helping others to shine in the process too? Or are we worried about the minor irritations that interfere with our personal comfort level? Can we illuminate or polish our golden threads by ourselves, or do we need help from others? from God?
Try to imagine your future self as Fr. Leo described above, already dead, already judged, and in heaven with God in eternity. (Remember, eternity is outside of time.) Imagine your future self next to God looking at the poster of the timeline of history. You are in awe of it all. The sheer number and immense tangle of golden threads flowing down the river of time is dizzying. Your natural impulse is to search out your own golden thread among the myriad, to see your life from the viewpoint of eternity, but it appears lost within it all. Without a word, God points to your single golden thread within the river of time. He points to now, to this very instant, to you in the present moment as you are reading this sentence. God and your future self are watching you now.
God and you in heaven look upstream from now to your past. You see your golden thread twist back in time and touch other threads. Each touch between threads is a moment of time frozen in your life where you touched another human being at some level. Some touches have no affect on other threads. Some touches produced shiny, luminous spots. Some touches produced tarnish. But there it is, in front of God and you and all of eternity to see, your sins, your tarnished moments when you chose to ignore grace and not let God shine through. But also, there are your bright spots too, where you chose to be open to grace. You opened yourself to the will of God so that He could shine through you to others.
Before you move your focus back to now, you notice on your golden thread of life some isolated spots where the luster seems to change without the touch of another thread. Curious. You look closer at an isolated tarnished spot and dissolve into the memory of the moment when you got angry. You had let that anger consume you to the point where you could not let it go, could not let it drift away like a speck of dust. Then your eye catches a nearby isolated bright spot. You dissolve into the memory of that moment when you found a place in your heart to forgive the person that caused the anger. You could not forgive that person on your own. You managed to open up your heart to let God help.
Then God and you in heaven look downstream from the now of the present moment to your future. You follow your golden thread as it twists ahead in time and touches more threads. More bright spots, more tarnished spots. Most of the things that you are worried about now, in the present moment, do not even happen. All of the fantasies and wishful thinking does not come to pass either.
In a way, none of it seems to matter; but then again, all of it does matters. Your future self is in heaven with God in eternity, outside of time. Even your love ones, dead and alive, are there with you in eternity, watching you in the present moment as you read this sentence. Somewhere, or some when, in your life on earth, you chose to repent, to turn toward God. You realized, or will realize that you are like the Lost Son. And you said, or will say, “I believe. I hope. I love you Father. Please forgive me.”
Each choice you made, are making, will make, either brightens your life and the lives around you; or it does not. You make the choice to follow God’s will and receive abundant grace; or you do not.
For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered.
— C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Only the choice can be made freely within the present moment. Not in the past, not in the future, but only in the present moment�