July 12, 2017
He pulled into the turn-around from the oncoming lanes and stopped. The signs clearly say, “No U-Turn,” but it was just as clear that a u-turn was exactly what he was going to do. I was in the passing lane, hemmed in by a semi beside me and a white sedan on my rear bumper. As I approached the No U-Turn sign, he suddenly pulled out directly in front of me. I slammed on my brakes, hit the horn, and checked my rear-view. Traffic behind me was skittering all over both lanes, trying to avoid hitting me and each other. Mr. Don’t Bother Looking nonchalantly continued on his way while I tried to catch my breath. I came within a hair’s breadth of accordianing the car and myself. Fortunately, no one was hit and no one was hurt. Unfortunately, there was no trooper on site to pull him over.
Continuing on my way home, I began to think about ‘What If,’ and ‘If Only.’ What if I had been going a mere mile an hour faster? What if I hadn’t been paying attention? What if he had waited a split second longer to pull out in front of me? What if the guy behind me had been following just a little closer? The trouble with questions like this is that they deal in fantasy, a world that doesn’t really exist.There are just two doorways into fantasy: these two questions. ‘What if’ deals with decisions not made, circumstances that have no reality, while ‘If only’ has to do with regrets over decisions made which cannot be undone. Neither of them deals with ‘what is,’ which is the only reality that exists.
Doubters and skeptics would pillory Christian faith by trying to convince us that we are trading in fantasy. We pray to a God we cannot see, and who by our own admission, doesn’t always or perhaps even often grant us our petitions. How do we counter such thinking?
I say that Christian faith deals in reality; in fact, it is the only approach to life that does so. Prayer is not an exercise in ‘what if,’ somehow hoping that we can conjure up something that has no independent reality. We don’t pray for healing as if wholeness wouldn’t exist if we failed to pray. We pray for healing because the healing we seek is already a present reality with God for Whom there is no past or future. Both past and future are immediately present to God.
The Bible talks about predestination, but predestination is not soothsaying, predicting something that will happen, but which has no present reality. Predestination is like a roadmap, as my friend pastor Roy Miller points out. A map doesn’t necessarily get you to your destination, but it makes that destination possible. But a map is only as good as the reality it represents. When we pray, we aren’t engaging in an exercise in fantasy, but in a means towards reality; the very real future that is already present to God. With God, there is no ‘what if,’ or ‘if only;’ there is only what is, and this is what we claim in prayer: that which is already a reality to our eternal God.
So tonight, I am thankful for the almost accident that made me ponder the reality of what is right now, and not what might have been, and for the prayers that receives life as it is, and is in itself, positive activity to change this real world into a better real world, not a fantasy world.