In “The Discarded Image”, C.S. Lewis shares the following thoughts regarding this study of De Consolatione Philosophiae (On the Consolation of Philosophy) by the early medieval scholar Boethius.
“Eternity is quite distinct from perpetuity, from mere endless continuance in time…Eternity is the actual and timeless fruition of illimitable life…And God is eternal, not perpetual. Strictly speaking, He never foresees, He simply sees. Your ‘future’ is only an area, and only for us a special area, of His infinite Now. He sees (not remembers) your yesterday’s acts because yesterday is still ‘there’ for Him. He sees (not foresees) your tomorrow’s acts because He is already in tomorrow.”
The perspective on eternity raises at least three thoughts for me.
- This helps me to understand how God can forgive, not just my sins that I have committed in my past, or am committing today but also that I will commit tomorrow. God is not limited by time, so the atonement of Jesus is also not limited by time. I have always understood this but guarded against it in a corner of my heart and mind. I thought that this somehow was an excuse to sin, a license for future behavior and I didn’t want to give that ground in my mind. It seemed like a weak resignation to sin, that ‘of course’ I am going to sin in the future but I already have my ‘get out of jail free’ card so I am good to go. But in reality this is a deadly blow to the power of sin in my life. Knowing that I am forgiven, truly forgiven, once and for all breaks the power of condemnation in my life. And without the weight of condemnation, grace has a freer hand to work. The power of sin is the law and the law works by guilt, debt and condemnation. God’s eternal forgiveness is not a cologne masking the stench of sin, but a cleansing agent that truly scours sin from the depths of the soul.
- God also can work freedom in our lives by healing our memories, by taking us into our past, to experiences and traumas that have wounded our souls and trap us in bondage to sin. This kind of experience in the past I have always discounted, because it seemed to be a shortcut, a “Jedi mind-trick” by which we can sort of fool ourselves as a coping mechanism. But the reality is that God can truly take us into our past. He is not limited by the passage of time and a wound that happened long ago does not doom us to a lifetime of “dealing with it the best we can”. His healing power stretches throughout the entirety of our lives. He can heal the past and break its power over our present and future.
- Finally, God has “put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecc 3:11 ESV) We were made for eternity and within the time span of our earthly lives there is an element that will always be missing. There is a holy discontent that prevents any temporal thing from truly satisfying us. Even in the greatest parts of life on earth, things like the love we share with our spouse and for our children, the beauty of creation and things that we enjoy doing, there is an element of longing for something more. All too often we experience that as a curse, but in reality it is God’s grace. The longing that we feel keeps us from settling for less than what God truly has for us. It is a motivator to seek after God, to truly press in and not substitute the good for the best.