If I had a dollar for every time I’ve wished I could travel back in time to fix all my screw-ups, then I’d have so much money that I could really screw up my life. Still, I have wished it. Indeed, I still wish I could go back and redo things. And I bet you do, too. Shift time into reverse, hit the gas, and burn rubber all the way back to “that day.” You know, that day. We all have one, or two, or a few hundred. I bet if an outsider were to spy on you during that momentous day, he might not see you doing anything outrageously evil. But his eyes lie; you see what that outsider doesn’t. You know that on that day you took the first hesitant step that led to the next confident leap that led finally to the all-out sprint toward the cliff of self-destruction. It was the first squabble with your spouse that never got resolved, gradually escalated, and finally grew into a bitterness that makes widowhood look like a dream come true. It was that juvenile moment when you caved to peer pressure and smoked that marijuana, that over time led to cocaine, which ultimately landed you in rehab fighting for your life. It’s your own personal “that day” you wish you could relive and fix. You’d rearrange your life the way it should have gone, the way you had it planned. You’d orchestrate a better existence for yourself in this world.
The thing is, not only is fixing our past impossible; who’s to say we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes? In fact, who’s to say we wouldn’t make matters even worse? Perhaps the most deeply embedded self-delusion we practice is that we learn from our mistakes and thus don’t repeat them. Sure we do. Almost on a daily basis we duplicate our downfalls. Lying got us into deep water once, but not a day goes by when we speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Lust wrecked our marriage, but still we cast wanton glances at women, undressing them with our eyes. So, do we learn from our mistakes? You betcha we do; we learn how to mitigate their consequences, or relish the desire but avoid the deed. For sin dies hard. Sin is like a cockroach: hit it, swat it, slap it, squash it, stomp it, but somehow it manages to scurry for cover in the dark folds of our souls.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I realize now, more fully than ever, why I’ve wished I could go back. It’s because I want to chart the course of my life; because deep down I believe what that poem of self-determination says, that “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” No I’m not. All I’ve mastered is servitude to sin. And the only vessel of which I am captain sank in the harbor, before it ever set sail.
Now, every time I want to shift time into reverse to go back to “that day,” I run smack dab into a huge stone that’s been rolled away from a vacated tomb. And there I stop. I get out and peer into the gloom of that grave, but there’s nothing to see but some ancient, folded linens. Not a corpse, not a single, solitary bone. It’s empty, as empty as my desires to fix the past. I realize that the past has already been fixed. What I wanted to do, and what I would doubtlessly have screwed up, someone else has done perfectly. He has taken “that day” and bled away its very existence. All other days have collapsed into a Friday, onto a man, who hung upon a cross. There, he fixed the past by destroying its dominion over us. All the regrets, all the stupid decisions we’ve made that we wish we could go back and change—they cease to matter. All that matters is that man, that God, that Jesus.
Easter is a time for ceasing to care about times past. The void of that tomb renders null and void every past accusation against us. Christ has redone our lives. He has redone everything. If I could go back in time to fix all my screw-ups, I wouldn’t find a single one. They have vanished into the body of that crucified man, who on the third day rose again, and brought with him from the grave me, and you, and a world that is now filled with hope.