Daily Devotionals

April 15th, 2024

Have you ever laid awake at night, reliving a moment over and over in your head? Maybe it’s a small, insignificant memory, but the consequences of that moment have changed the trajectory of your life? I often wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t said such and such to somebody, or if I had taken an opportunity that I turned down at the time. Eventually, I start imagining a single point in time as the crossroads of my life and fantasize about returning to that moment and drastically changing my life. (In my fantasy I retain all my current knowledge of Super Bowl winners and make the appropriate bets.)

Of course, in this dream-scenario, I’m taking my brain back with me: the same brain that is going to make the same kinds of mistakes that it did the first time around, even if the precise mistakes are slightly altered. As random as our decisions seem to be sometimes, they are still the ones we made. Age and experience can show us the consequences of our actions, but age and experience are only achieved by living and making a lot of dumb choices.

What we long for is a supernatural intervention: a time machine to go back and do things over again. That method of retro-course correction seems like an ageless, universal idea, but the concept of jumping around different points of time isn’t terribly old. We’ve grown accustomed to the mechanics of time travel by a lot of movies over the past few decades, but life-altering interventions used to be portrayed with another literary trope. Just a quick scan through literary history shows a different kind of supernatural side-step.

Think of Hamlet and the Ghost, Scrooge and the 3 spirits, Faustus and the good angel, Saul on the road to Damascus, instead of returning to an arbitrary point in the past, all of these characters were met by a spectre of some kind who offered supernatural insight into the direction of their lives. None of the supernatural beings forced the characters into their decisions, they only offered a divine perspective that had not been attainable up to that point. Age and experience can help direct our actions, but they can also fail us. We need God’s perspective.

So if we cannot travel back in time to our teenage years and start paying more attention in trigonometry, should we wait for a phantom to knock at our door? 

No, prayer is our access to divine insight. As long as we rely on our own ability to make decisions, we’ll make the same mistakes over and over. If I went back in time and really gave my best effort in trigonometry, I’d still make a similarly lackluster effort in some other aspect of my life because that’s what teenagers do (at least, that’s what I did). Prayer helps align our thoughts with God’s thoughts, and our will with God’s will. A time machine can’t fix our lives, it just makes a new mess with the same ingredients. Only by pursuing the will of God through prayer can we lead a better life. The specter is already here. He stands at the door and knocks.

Read: 1 Peter 1:14-16 NRSV

Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’