Google Maps can take you into the past, but only God’s promises can secure your future.
During a lull at work, I searched our old address on Erin Court in Google Maps and peered into a frozen history. There is our old townhome home tucked at the end of a chip-sealed cul-du-sac, hidden by shaggy elms. The bricks are that peculiar beige color only found on the backs of puzzle pieces and houses built in the 70s. Two graffitied dumpsters squat like fat toads at the entrance to the parking lot ruminating on pieces of furniture. Over there is the honeysuckle that grew along the fence and scented the air with pastels. And there is the old washing machine spaceship that carried toddlers to a distant world overrun by Moonwuzzles, a most nefarious species, that must be wiped out before it is too late. The chain-link gate, that squeaked satisfyingly and was unable, despite its best efforts, to keep adventurous boys in, is open.
Judging by the still life of our house in the convection heat of a July afternoon, we hadn’t a care in the world and might be down at the creek or swinging life away at the park. Life always seems simpler in pictures, a time when things were happier, cleaner and sepia toned. Nostalgia is a fumigator of the past, and all the roaches and moldy anxieties scatter for the shadows in its rosy glow.
The pictures you take today, when looked at in a year, will seem simple, bright and filled with incredulity at your hairstyle. But the scars in your heart don’t match up with that timeline. You know things weren’t easy then or simple.
Off stage in that picture of our house is a man wondering how he can pull his family out of debt, how he can lead them spiritually, how to raise his kids to be anything but the inevitable sociopaths they seem destined to become—if he can only restrain his temper. On the other side of that living room window there is an underslept woman, pouches of sleep hanging from her eyes from changing diapers, feeding infants and quelling toddler mutinies—all the while choking herself out with Pinterest expectations of what motherhood ought to be. I remember the time being a daily walk through a mire of uncertainty, frustration guilt and anxiety.
Anxiety is a transtemporal joy thief. It takes you from the present and shows you all the parallel universes of each decision and potentiality and chronicles your ruin each. It is what is missing from your pictures.
Yet when I gold pan my memories of that time that was riddled with anxiety, pleasantness and grace are all that remain. The silt of the anxiety that muddied my life is sifted away. Because we are all right. And back then, we were going to be alright. God promised to preserve us and he has preserved us.
This morning I was kneading and rolling out a doughy mass of future uncertainties, leavened with anxiety. I could feel the acrid lump rising in my soul. But when I Google Maps this moment in my life in a year, I will know then what feeble faith struggles to see now: that come what may, it is well with my soul. The only difference between the tranquil past and tumult of the future is the promises of God waiting in the queue. They are champing in the starting gate and pawing the ground to fulfill themselves.
I am sitting on the back deck now. The sun is setting on the foothills, a splash of blood in the sky. The creek is chittering a liquid melancholy song, and the bats are having breakfast. Night is bubbling up from the shadows and flowers make the air smell purple. Twiggy chutes of the cottonwood and ash, willowy and tender in the light, are hammered into iron by the dark. A breeze meanders through the trees to find me and I can feel the forest’s cool breath on my chest like the sigh of some wildly contented thing. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). My mind is at peace. The worries of tomorrow I had gathered up this morning are slumped in the corner, grey and breathless, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how they ever seemed alive. I am drowsy with the dark and the promise of sleep, where I will do nothing, and he will be busy weaving a future.
The Christian has no good excuse for worry. For God has bound himself to you, in Christ, to always do you good. I would like to repeat that. The God who created something out of nothing, Who effortlessly tracks the patterns of every mote of dust in the universe, from Whose plan not one cell of your body may stray, without Whose permission not one hair of your head may be harmed, Who feeds sparrows and dresses flowers, Who forgets nothing except all your sins toward him, Who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, has promised, through that same Son, that he will make all things in your life work out for your good. He has made you this promise and staked his reputation on it. We are at the mercy of no man, no disease, no regime, no failure, no mistake, no sin. Because it is through all of these things that he is revealing his Son in us and proves himself to be a promise keeper.
We need not wait years to look back and find peace in his faithfulness to us. It can be found now through belief in the fact of future fulfillment.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.