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Knowing the End

09 Aug

My wife and I have enjoyed watching the Olympics. Tonight, we watched yesterday’s gold medal match in women’s beach volleyball.

We don’t own a television, so our habit has been to look at the results from the previous day, find the events in which our favorite athletes or teams medaled, and then to watch the video recordings of just those competitions via the Internet.

Of course, this means that every time we watch an event we know exactly how it’s going to turn out.

Ultimately, there’s no suspense, no nail-biting moments wondering if the underdog will be able to pull off an upset, if the team will ever be able to come back from their point deficit. They either do or they don’t, and we know which it is.

Some would find this approach to completely ruin the experience of watching such events.

But I have found that it actually adds a great layer of joy. Knowing the end from the beginning, I can enjoy the outworking of it without fretting about the actual result. Although I don’t encounter surprise at the incredible comeback or unpredicted upset, I get to enjoy the journey of how it’s pulled off, knowing for certain that it’s going to happen. I’m not looking to be surprised; I’m looking to watch incredible feats of human athleticism, skill, and even mental commitment to succeed.

I recognize that many people don’t feel the same way. That don’t want to know how it ends up ahead of time; they want to watch it live, or to try desperately (in this media-saturated age) to keep unaware of the results until they’ve had the chance to watch for themselves. I tried that once, to hide from the outcome of the national championship game for American college football. It didn’t work.

They feel like it takes the sport out of it to know the conclusion, akin to reading the last page of a mystery novel right at the start (no, I don’t do this).

I have even heard people bring this thinking into more grave aspects of life: the death of Christ was no big deal to Him because He knew that He was going to be raised from the dead.

Or, our life here doesn’t matter because we know how it’s all going to end.

There’s actually a theological term to describe that viewpoint.

“Baloney.”

Regardless of knowing about His resurrection, I can’t imagine that having a grasp of the impending future made Jesus’ excruciating pain any less to bear.

Regardless of knowing about our eternal fate (whether you believe in salvation, damnation, or annihilation), I can’t imagine that having a grasp of the impending future makes the trials and joys of life any less real or significant.

Instead, knowing the end provides great freedom: without the need for worry and uncertainty concerning the outcome, we can instead focus fully on the journey. How will we get from here to there? What will we experience? How will God carry us through? What will be hard? What will be joyous?

We must admit, for people of faith, despite knowing the end, there are still abundant opportunities to wrestle with confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty. While those are real, at least we don’t have to fret over the ultimate outcome. There’s security in that. Peace. Simplicity.

“Don’t tell me! I don’t wanna know!” This is perhaps the most common line when the conversation turns to a currently showing film. People want to avoid “spoilers,” the revelation of the plot and its conclusion before actually experiencing it.

I can appreciate the sentiment as it relates to entertainment, but not to life. Ignoring issues of faith and eternity just to make the climax and conclusion that much more interesting is not the wisest course of action in navigating life.

Instead, knowing the end allows us to fully embrace the present. With the conclusion foreknown, all of our energy and attention can be turned to the events of today, the endurance of which is continually illuminated by the certainty of what’s coming.

I’m not feeling any loss by knowing what’s going to happen to me. Instead, I can enjoy, examine, and embrace the life of the moment, seeing and experiencing what God does to carry me from here to there.

I think there’s actually a technological term to describe my viewpoint.

“TiVo.”

Or “DVR.”

Or “DVD.”

Or even “YouTube.”

I guess it’s a pretty popular perspective after all.

 

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Life, Theology

 

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