Imagine you could get a glimpse of your future. That somehow, the curtain that separates today from all our tomorrows could be pulled back and you could see what’s coming –good or bad –for your health, your marriage, your kids, your job or your…whatever.
What would you do with that knowledge? How do you think it would shape your days, your decisions, your priorities?
That is the premise behind the new television series flashforward, which premiered this week. In one terrifying moment, every person in the world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. As you can imagine, chaos ensues. But as the initial shock wears off and people begin sharing, they discover a common experience: in those 137 seconds, every person alive caught a glimpse of their life—on the same day, six months in the future. The show will explore how that knowledge impacts key characters and how the threads of those stories will be woven together.
What questions would such future knowledge raise? The script did a good (and fairly realistic) job of voicing some of them: is my destiny inevitable? Do I still have a choice? How will I get in that situation? Can I use what I saw to stop what I saw? Do the decisions I make with this knowledge match the decisions I would make anyway?
What emotions would such future knowledge cause? A little bit of joy (for the guy who was going to commit suicide, but saw himself alive), but mostly fear, confusion and regret. One little girl says that her vision was that “there were no more good days.”
The scenario raises some even more profound – and spiritually loaded questions. One woman who saw herself in an extramarital affair asked, “How do I atone for something that hasn’t happened yet?” Even when you know your future, there is still sin and a need for forgiveness. Another person noticed that this is a mosaic of 7 billion ideas. All of those moments are like points of paint in a Monet—and must be correlated to grasp the whole picture. How?
There is an unsettled sense to the whole drama that reflects a deeper reality. We human beings have an extremely limited ability to see the future – of the next hour, much less than days or months in advance. We can say very little with certainty: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Prov.27:21) Life is tenuous. “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) On top of that, we can’t see the whole picture—where we’re headed as individuals or how it will connect with others or the story of the world.
Tomorrow is just too big for us. That’s why it can be scary. It’s going to take someone outside to make sense of it all.
In the last scene of flashforward, a security camera picked up an image of one person who was awake when everyone else was blacked out. Clearly, a big part of the drama will be to discover who that person is. In our own foggy prescience, Someone is awake to it all — and through it all. Our God claims, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come…” (Is.46:10)
The old gospel song says “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.” Tomorrow will have its trouble—and He will be there. So relax—and live today with your heavenly Father. It’s really all we have.