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Where have you come from? Where are you going to?

By Paul Paynter
Throughout years of pastoral ministry, especially to those who are broken and scarred, I have observed that there is a real connection between how people relate to their past, present and future and their freedom and wholeness. How they internally hold thoughts and feelings about these three realms of time determines a great deal about how they live their lives. Doubtless this applies to communities of people as well.

Centuries ago a young woman who was on the run from difficult circumstances, was confronted with questions to do with this issue.  Hagar was this girl’s name and the wider context of her story can be accessed in Genesis 16.  Perhaps Hagar gets a bad press because of the theological point her story is later used to illustrate. However, setting that aside and focussing on this account purely as a human story, essentially this is the story of a woman who was exploited and used at the will of powerful people (not unlike thousands of trafficked women in our world today).  As a consequence of the choices of others, Hagar finds herself in a deserted place, endeavouring to stay alive.  But it is there she discovers that she is not alone or abandoned, because she encounters divine presence.  As the encounter unfolds Hagar is asked two straightforward questions.  “…the angel of the Lord said….. ‘Where have you come from? Where are you going to?’”  Obviously the One asking these questions didn’t need to learn that information; He would have already known that!  But the point of the enquiry was to bring revelation to the questioned. These are good questions for us also.  A good question is worth a thousand answers. These are profound questions for each one of us.  Our answer to them reveals so much.

As we learn to bring our whole lives - past, present and future - under the care and reign of the God who is, who was and who is to come, a wholeness comes that enables us to live at peace with ourselves and the world around us.  As we gain a healthy perspective on each of these spheres of time we can flourish to live life as it was intended to be.  Of course the reverse is evident as well. When we do not or cannot relate appropriately to the past, present or future we are in some way snagged and peace is elusive.

Thankfully we are not abandoned to deal with the past, present and future on our own. We too can become aware of the God who sees us completely. We don’t need to rewrite history, but instead we can receive the grace that can redeem anything.  We don’t need to fret about the present, but instead we can have confidence in a Provider who gives us our daily bread.  We don’t need to be dominated by dark forebodings about the future, but instead we can have the vision that we can become everything God has called us to be. We can be at peace in the reign of a God who is and was and to come.