Every year Eastbourne hosts a major airshow called Airbourne. The F-16 fly-pasts rattle your fillings loose and make your bowels shudder. People either love that kind of stuff or hate it. I think it’s beyond awesome.
One time I was down at the seafront watching the show with a friend and the Red Arrows came on – the Royal Air Force’s display team. They were extremely impressive and we were oo-ing and ah-ing until they did their trademark love heart formation. Over the tannoy they dedicated it to some member of their publicity team.
“Idiot!” said my friend.
“Idiot!! Oh you idiot, you idiot, you total moron!”
“What’s the matter?”
“The dedication!! I was supposed to ask them whether they’d dedicate the love-heart to my parents! It’s their 40th wedding anniversary. I was supposed to ask them and I forgot.”
“Oh” I said, my keen pastoral insight shining through.
To be honest there was nothing to say. His father spent his life in the RAF. It was their ruby wedding anniversary. They were also at the seafront listening to the same commentary. His mother had asked him that morning to make the request as a surprise for his dad.
He remembered many things about his parent’s anniversary that day. But this one task slipped his mind. A simple mistake to make. But there was no taking it back. The moment had completely passed – an irrevocable error.
And boy did I feel for him.
Because life is made up of irrevocable errors. The deadline passes, the door closes, the opportunity vanishes. The words have left your mouth, the email has been sent, the damage has been done. And there’s no getting it back.
But there is no getting the toothpaste back into the tube. Because God has designed the world in just this way.
He drives Adam and Eve out of paradise and determines that humanity must journey on to the city, not back to the garden.
He calls Abraham out of Ur and never back.
It’s one-way traffic through the Red Sea – they are coming out of Egypt, never to return.
It turns out that the curses and blessings of the covenant are discrete phases the people must pass through – first the judgement, then blessings on the other side.
They don’t avert judgement by cleaning up their act but bow their head to the coming exile.
Christ doesn’t avoid but passes through death to resurrection, calling His people to likewise take up their crosses.
Death then resurrection and no resurrection without death.
The very passage of time marks the relentless forward motion of the God of hope – the Redeemer God who is always moving on.
Through every stage of life – in every moment even – the Lord shuts the door behind us and beckons us forwards.
Of course we don’t like moving on. We’d rather go back over our mistakes and redeem them ourselves. We’d prefer to recapitulate our fallen humanity rather than allowing Christ to do it. Our regret is a kind of mental salvation by works. But it’s futile and faithless.
Instead we ought to be resurrection people. Those who know that redemption lies ahead, on the other side of these one-way gateways. We look to the Lord who will restore to us the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). But restoration is not in our hands and it’s not in the past. It’s in the Lord’s hands and we receive it in the future.
Therefore we are prisoners of hope. We must live by a forward looking faith in the redeeming Lord, leaving restoration in His hands and moving forward through countless points of no return.
Life is full of the irrevocable. The Lord wants it that way. So often the irrevocable makes us wallow in regret. Yet the very opposite should be the case. The door has been locked behind us and we should stop banging on it. Instead we are beckoned forwards towards resurrection, knowing that life may consist in the irrevocable but that nothing is irredeemable. And for those in Christ, all things will be.