Salt spray on the car
I am persnickety about clean windows in my car. If you have a dog, I’ll probably spot you at a stoplight one of these days, and then I’ll start talking to myself about those nose prints and tongue impressions all over your car windows. If my wife is in the car with me, she’ll steer my attention away from your fogged up windows and onto the fabulousness of that cute dog of yours riding inside. That’s one of the reasons I married her.
A clean car window obsession is not a virtue in the winter. Maybe it’s never a virtue. Regardless, salt spray makes a quick mess of anyone’s priorities, but especially of perfectionists. It puts an ugly tint on the rear window in a matter of minutes. My sedan has no wiper and washer contraption like the front window. So, weeks can go by before I overcome enough personal sloth to step out into the cold and actually wash that rear window.
Two nights ago, I could barely see out the rear window, which makes lane changing very difficult. I was so focused on the rearview mirror that I almost got into an accident. Life is better now, but that’s mostly because I took the time to haul the gas station squeegee out of its muddy, blue solution.
Here’s what I want to say in theological reflection on this rear window of mine: The direction of the Bible – yes, that incredible Word that shapes our lives – is forward. It is inevitably and always forward. Its concern is the future. Just as the best way to get somewhere in a car is to look forward out the windshield, so the best way to read scripture is to lean into the future. When Jesus disappeared from the tomb, we’re told that he “went on ahead” of everybody, especially blindsiding those fixed on their rearview mirror.
Plenty of religion is loaded with nostalgia. It gets defined by the past. We describe our faith by what we remember most distinctively from childhood church experiences. Fundamentalism, at its worst, is a compulsion to retrieve and preserve the past, however imagined that past might be. If only we could recapture the past, this way of thinking goes, all would be well. But that’s foolishness. It doesn’t work to read the Bible that way any more than it works to drive that way. God’s word is living and active, waiting for us to do something with it.
So today, let’s understand faith as having a deep confidence in God’s future; not living in some imagined (even if memorable) past.