I was talking with friends tonight about what it means for God to be eternal. It sounds like a dry and dusty doctrine, something we are supposed to believe about God, but which at first glance doesn’t appear to have much to do with our lives. I have gradually come to have a very different view of it.
If God stands outside of time, He doesn’t have the same linear view of it that we have. That sounds like stating the obvious, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to appreciate what that actually means, for me, in practical terms. From where I stand now, on 3rd March 2012, aged 53 and three-quarters, the present moment is this one now where I am sitting in my living room with my laptop, typing this. Behind me lies the past, some of it now completely lost to me in obscurity, some dimly or perhaps inaccurately remembered, some as vivid in my recollection now as the moment when it happened. Before me stretches the future, and although I am shaping and creating it by the decisions I take and the words I speak and write now, still I have only an imprecise sense of what will happen. There are no doubt many events I haven’t anticipated, and though I know what dreams I hope to realise, I can’t see exactly how they will become reality.
But for God it isn’t like that. He doesn’t have our linear view of time, although in the person of Jesus He subjected Himself to it, and He fully understands it from our point of view. God stands outside of our space-time dimensions, and therefore every single location in space and every single moment in time is continually present to Him.
Understanding this had a very profound effect on me. I have always believed that God can heal me of things that have damaged me in the past. But this was merely a theoretical belief, and one that gave me great difficulty when I tried to visualise it. Recalling a particularly traumatic incident that occurred when I was 13, someone once advised me to think back to those events and see Jesus present with me. It simply didn’t work. If He was present, why didn’t He stop it happening? God is supposed to be my Father. If a human Father, with power to intervene, witnessed that happening to His daughter, and did nothing to stop it, we would call it child abuse.
But understanding the eternity of God changed my whole perspective on this. If every single moment of time is eternally present to God, then He is still right there when that incident happened. To me it is something in my past that left its mark on me. But it is still present to God right here and now (of course if God is outside space and time, then “here” and “now” are concessions to our limited understanding. Then again, the God who is outside time and space chooses to step into time and space, not just at some particular point in history, but constantly, again and again, so these two words are not meaningless). If God is currently present at that moment in my history, then He can change it right now. The past is not set in stone. He is there, now, as it happens, and He is healing the damage it did to me. Once I saw this I understood how He really can heal the wounds of the past by being there now and changing their effect on me, and I truly did experience healing and freedom from the effects of what had happened.
Of course the flip side of this is that He is in my future, too, right at this very moment. Dreams I am dreaming, prayers whose answers I am waiting for, they are all happening right now where He is. If I can learn to align myself with Him, I can be there too, and I can pull my future into the present. I’m still working on this! One day I know I will see my daughter get up out of her wheelchair and walk. But this new perspective means I don’t simply have to wait passively hoping it will someday happen. God is right there in her future at this very moment, making it happen. The more I align myself with Him, the closer I come to pulling that event into the present. How exciting, to be a co-creator with Him in this way.