On a former grave plot, the Greeks established Delphi eight centuries before Jesus’ birth. The new temple boasted the “Oracle,” the message from the mythical Apollo about the future’s successes…and failures.
Seedy sides of towns host séances. Weird women in robes turn over tarot cards to “discern” the spirits. It even became child’s play with Magic 8 Balls (shaken to give yes, no, or perhaps) answers to questions. And then there was the Ouija board that a knee shook under the table to manifest the presence of a spirit that would broadcast the coming. We have longed to know the future since Delphi.
Religious zealots pontificate on the timing of when the world will end with convoluted and controversial readings of Revelation and Daniel.
Humans thirst to peak through the curtain that divides today and tomorrow.
But that thirst comes from not knowing the future. Because we cannot know, how do we order our lives today?
We want the future settled in our minds, so we know what to do today. And we make assumptions about what is ahead. The young seem to know their lot (albeit not accurate). Life goes straight up. Families are healthy, homes grow more prominent, and promotions come regularly.
But at a certain age, the future is inevitable but not clear. Will I be healthy, or is some disability or disease around the corner? Do I have 10 more years to live? More? Less? How can I plan my retirement, so my money does not run out if that is true? How should I spend the time I have left.?
This uncertain future leaves us unsettled. Anxiety and worry are the children of the yearning to know. Life remains turbulent to the one who demands answers to what is coming.
While we can forecast trends, the shape of the future eludes us. A single truth settles the restless heart.
Live your life so you can have a serene life no matter what comes.
Paul wrote to the Philippians while in prison. He awaits an appeal to the Roman emperor. The ultimate outcome would determine so much. Plans are on pause, and he doesn’t have an itinerary from God for his journey. He knows death is a possibility. He knows the grip of the circumstances.
Yet he maintains a perspective that allows for ambiguity.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:21-24)
If he lives, he is blessed but gets what he wants if he dies. He can live on either side of the equation.
The reason is simple. Paul lived his life to where staying or dying were both advantages.
The wrinkles of life come before they get noticed. We create them with each moment that passes. A 20-year-old one day is a retiree. And each day, he sculpts his golden years without knowing.
Mickey Mantle remarked (probably citing the musician Hubie Blake), “If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
The coming days are nothing more than the days we craft moment by moment. Even if you cannot know your future, you do. It is who you become by living today.
What does your future hold?