One of my favorite movies of all time is a film called Arrival.
It’s a sci-fi alien movie focused on a woman named Dr. Louise Banks. Dr. Banks is a linguist and language professor, and after twelve alien “pods” land on Earth she finds herself being invited by the military to help communicate with them.
So, Louise slowly attempts to decipher the alien’s peculiar language, which they begin to display for her in circular shaped symbols, and what Louise begins to discover is incredible…
Their language is nonlinear…
Meaning that the way they structure their written language has no beginning and no end, and what this implies is that these aliens do not perceive time in the same way that we do. They do not travel through time, watching it unfold piece by piece, but instead experience it as a whole all at the same time. And as Louise finds out, the result of learning this language is that you also start to experience time in a nonlinear way…
So as Dr. Banks learns this alien language, she begins to experience the present and the future simultaneously, seeing snippets of what happens down the road. And it’s not all good things.
By the end of the movie we assume that Louise knows what most of her future life holds, and the great tragedy that awaits her (I won’t disclose the details in case you have yet to see the movie). She knows that she could potentially change the outcome of her future and avoid what has already been seen, but in doing so she would never experience the great love shared by her and her future family.
The story of this film strikes me in such a spiritual way, and as I’m watching I can’t help but think that this must be similar to the way that God views time. I enjoy imagining that he sees the past, present and future of humanity in the same way that we might flip through a photo album.
But while I do believe that God is not constrained by time in the same way that we are, he is also more present in time than we could ever imagine. Both seeing it all unfold simultaneously, and intervening in the moments when we call out to him in our desperation.
And like Louise in Arrival God knew, from the moment of creation, the pain and suffering that awaited him on the cross that day. Yet he still chose that fate because of his love for us. And we have a similar choice to make…because we know that if we follow Jesus there will be pain and suffering ahead of us. But we also know how the story ends.
This peek into the future gives us the strength and courage to keep choosing God, and in a way gives us the ability to break out of our own timeline and see the bigger picture.
The picture of God’s eternal kingdom as we await the fullness of his arrival.