The time machine

Faith & Inspiration | Live your life as if it is always being recorded
by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2016, at 10:45 am

The family came up with a no-gifts rule for Christmas, children excepted. I got a bright idea, necessity being the mother of invention: I unearthed long-forgotten cassette tapes of my kids’ early years, had them transferred to CD, and gave each adult child his own voice in a basket of homemade granola, salsa, and cranberry sauce. Something for you to think about next year if your kids decree a no-gift rule.

In God’s world nothing ever leads to nothing. He is always up to something. Some of the best things and worst things that ever happened to me started out with an unassuming detail in the day, a seemingly unimportant decision. The box of magnetic polyester tape spools buried in the back of a closet in the dining room were a pregnant ambush awaiting just this time and day and year to bring about a rendezvous with God. I had opened the door to the Twilight Zone.

The nature of my tape recording career back then was that I turned on the machine and let it soak in testimony unobtrusively in the background while we went about our daily business. Now it is true, as we are often told by research naturalists, that the introduction of a camera or other foreign artifact into a habitat changes the behavior of the animals. Nevertheless, because of this laissez-faire tape-till-it-clicks-off policy I caught sizable uninterrupted chunks of a day, which, when listened to in 2016, had the tendency to transport one to the scene and time, as if one were there again. I was back in 1985, then 1992, then 1997.

There I was in the kitchen clanging dishes. (Why are dishes so much louder on tape recordings than voices?) There were the kids’ feet clomping in and out from the bedroom. And there was my late husband Young coming home from work, and the two of us exchanging words. Can I make those words better now? Can I change the clanging-dish obsession into quality time with the kids? Can I make myself say just once in the blizzard of words, “I love you,” for all my anguished pleading to my tape recorder? Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

For us, an hour once past is over, but with God all moments are before Him as immediate.

While working on my Christmas presents I began to think about time—time, a curious God invention. For us, an hour once past is over, but with God all moments are before Him as immediate. That June 2, 1985, afternoon is as alive to Him—in all its detail in perfect order—as is this instant in which I am typing, which is already as much behind me and non-redoable as Britain’s victory at Agincourt. We humans are to “forget what lies behind” and to “press on,” but God sees all moments simultaneously.

Have you ever wondered how it can be literally true that “for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36)? Every idle word? It is because we will be in eternity, so there will be expansive space enough for long racontage.

Men have long sought to put their hands on the throttle of time—to go back, to go forward, to do retakes: Groundhog Day, Forever Young, Back to the Future, Looper, Star Trek IV, Terminator, Terminator 2, The Time Machine, an endless list. Nor is this whimsy but a deadly earnest endeavor. If ever a chapter of Scripture unveiled the dark matter and high stakes of history it is Daniel 7, where we learn that God’s arch enemy “shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law” (verse 25).

Nevertheless, no matter how many times Young walks through the door on June 2, he says the same thing, and I say the same thing. Esau could not change the past, “though he sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). And no one is allowed to know the might-have-beens.

My chastened New Years advice to you is to live as though a tape recorder were always running in the room, and that you will someday be forced to replay it.

And never again waste a moment to love.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.

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  • hawaiicharles
    Posted: Thu, 12/29/2016 01:41 pm

    I am reminded of a man in my small group Bible study from about a decade ago, who was convinced that at judgement time, a movie of everyone's entire life will play for the rest of the world to see.  I have my doubts about that, but the thought of it certainly would prompt anyone to think twice when temptation knocks.


  • Katie
    Posted: Fri, 12/30/2016 11:12 am

    Wow. Thank you for this reminder. I suspect my life would change dramatically if I lived like a tape or video recorder was always in the room, ready to play back my actions and words to anyone who cared to listen. Oh, how many opportunities we waste! How many regrets we collect! Help me, Lord, in the new year to live like You are always watching. Because You are.

  •  bwsmith's picture
    Posted: Sun, 01/01/2017 09:17 am

    Happy New Year!

    You wrote: "My chastened New Years advice to you is to live as though a tape recorder were always running in the room, and that you will someday be forced to replay it." It is good advice, especially remembering how much I have said that is "idle" and worse. I am so grateful for the Cross, and the empty Tomb . . .