C. S. Lewis wrote “God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you have been the only man in the world.”
Many of us have not written novels, but Lewis’ point is clear. If the author wants you to know the primary characters of a novel in depth, the author may spend a lot of time and pages explaining what is going on when a novel begins. The author sets the stage. Tom Clancy was great at doing that. A friend, who loved Clancy novels, once said, “Clancy spends the first 500 pages boring you with all of the details, but you have to read them. Because the next 200 pages are pure action, but you won’t know what’s going on if you skipped the first part, and you’ll never know why the person reacted the way he did.”
Some authors skip around in time, skipping from modern day to thirty years ago and then back again. Other authors write about a week in the life of the protagonist with days of the week instead of numbers for the chapters. The author will often throw in an epilogue that is dated three months later.
Whether you read a lot of books or very few, the author’s timeline is what the author chooses. The author lives outside the timeline of his book.
God lives outside the timeline of this universe. He is outside the time-space continuum. A popular modern theological concept is that God is right next to us, but we do not see Him due to a thin veil. We don’t see Him because we are trapped in time and space. It is inconceivable to most of us that God could do that for each and every person on earth at the same time. Yet, He is outside of time. He can see us at the molecular and cell level, while seeing the course of events in our lives, making sure that we bump into the people that we are supposed to bump into in life. (I’m not espousing a total deterministic universe, just making a point.) While doing all of that, He is watching asteroids travelling through space and making sure that they are moved out of the path of our earth in order to protect the world.
If infinity makes your head hurt, some things must be accepted by faith. Yet, to understand that Jesus died for me personally is something I can grasp. Praying during the rites of the Last Supper in your church and seeing Jesus in your mind, hanging from the cross, and staring into your eyes… That’s a good thing. Can you feel the Love He displayed at that moment? Can you understand that God’s sacrifice was for you, personally?
For those who wrestle with the How, understand that the time outside the time-space continuum is infinite. God could stretch out the time of our lives into millions of years (in our thinking) in order to be in every place that affects our lives, to orchestrate every event that affects our lives, and to guide every person that affects our lives.. We have free will as does everyone else, but when you bump into someone who helps you or you bump into someone who needs help, I believe that God had a hand in it. God didn’t force the events, but He stood there with the baton in His hand, because He wanted someone to act. He’s not just omnipresent and omniscient, He’s the sovereign God of the universe. Some people believe that a long time ago, God spoke and the world was created, creating time as a result. Yet, we have to understand that being outside of the time-space continuum, God could see and affect the end times while speaking creation into existence. This thought boggles my mind.
An episode of the original Star Trek TV show comes to mind. Odd things are happening on the Enterprise. Spock realizes that aliens are on the ship but in a faster frequency. He speeds himself up, meets the aliens and solves their problem. Next you see Captain Kirk wondering why the Enterprise is out of danger, but Spock isn’t back. It is explained that Spock was remaining at the faster frequency so that he could repair the ship. If we can visualize people living in the same space, but at different frequencies, we might be able to see God with us.
Think of your life. Some people never travel more than one hundred miles from the place of their birth. These people have limited access to the outside world, except through books, movies, the internet, and TV. They then meet someone who has travelled around the world. In talking with their new friend, everything the new friend says is strange and exotic. Let’s say that the new friend was in the military and stationed overseas for a few years. While the stories are exotic to the people who never travel, the stories are believed by corroborating evidence. The evidence could be souvenirs, photos, videos offered by the traveler or by the non-traveler seeing the same kinds of things on TV or other media. For example, if the traveler talks about a leaning tower in Italy, the non-traveler has probably seen pictures.
So it is between us and God. We have not stepped outside the time-space continuum, but God lives there. We have God’s Word to reinforce what we believe in our hearts. The moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior is a private moment. We are so filled with Joy that we don’t care that time seemed to stop so that God could spend that moment with us personally. Why do we have a problem believing that He is too busy to spend a moment years later? God is not a politician who, once we’ve voted, doesn’t need us anymore. God is still that personal God who died just for you so that you could have eternal life. Jesus died and rose again. Jesus appeared to many faithful witnesses to prove He had victory over death.
There is an often told story about a little girl who prays for a hot water bottle to appear in her village in Africa within a day’s time in order to save a baby’s life. Within the critical timeframe a standard delivery of supplies arrived, along with the hot water bottle. The item was added months before when the shipment was prepared, long before the prayer was uttered. God is outside the time-space continuum. He gave the child faith that was strong enough to pray the bold prayer. He heard the prayer, and He responded to the prayer by setting things in motion in the past. Like the author that writes in the present and then explains why that happened with a flashback to thirty years ago in the novel, our sovereign God had someone feel the need to place a hot water bottle in the box, just in case. To us, God had to go back in time to change things, but God was outside of time and saw (orchestrated) the events to show He is in this world with us.
A baby boy is born to a married couple in rural Mississippi. He grows up, travelling the USA, but never going overseas, never living outside Mississippi until he graduates college. About the same time he is born, a girl is born in Indonesia to a married couple. Her father is Dutch, a former Dutch Army officer. Her mother is Eurasian, born on the island of Java. Indonesia is in the midst of a rebellion that will eventually lead the father to take his family to Holland and eventually Texas, where the young girl grows up. She has ridden camels in Egypt and travelled through the Suez Canal during a time when Egypt was limiting travel through the canal with armed men on either side of the canal, ready to start another armed conflict. She has lived on three different continents by the time she graduates high school. She joins the military and serves during a time of conflict, then she settles into work at a hospital in Texas. One day, a co-worker mentions a young lonely guy at the apartment complex where his wife is the manager. Months later, the boy from Mississippi, who never lived anywhere else until he moved to Texas, marries the exotic girl from Indonesia. Some people are screaming “coincidence” about now. Some are praising God for setting things in motion that only the Great Author of the universe could conceive. He answered the prayers of the exotic girl and the lonely boy. God used armed conflict and the needs and desires of many people to write a simple love story. Why? God is Love. Does He need any other reason? How? God is the Great Author who is not bound by the timeline of the novel.
In Exodus 3, God says to Moses to tell them that He is “I am who I am”. When outside time and space, God simply is.