The Very Long Arc


Earthrise, Christmas Eve, 1968.

Orbiting the desolate moon in the Apollo 8 spacecraft, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman were the first humans to see the Earth as a solitary oasis suspended in darkness.

I remember sitting in front of a B&W TV as the crew read in turn the ancient opening verses from the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning…”

Commander Borman signed off, “God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

An iconic photo reminds me of the value of a big-picture, long-term perspective. In a culture obsessed with immediate results, it summons the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

2017 was difficult for me. External events sort of highlighted in my mind the reality of 30 years in a wheelchair. Looking back, I realize I became too focused on short-term events, a myopic perspective that’s a sure recipe for depression and despair.

Perhaps you’ve seen this little meme, a cute visual way of saying, “Stuff happens.”Everyone knows that’s how it works. Storms, bumps, and potholes are just part of the deal.

Short-term thinking zooms in on every deviation and turns it into a disaster. A bigger view reveals Jesus’ continued presence and provision. In retrospect, boats, bridges, and shelters always appeared.

It’s a whole other issue, however, when we mistakenly decide “what really happened” is “what God intended.”

Loved one died, suddenly and far too young? Everything happens for a reason. Fell off a roof and became paralyzed? All part of God’s plan.

I don’t think so. I don’t believe my injury, childhood cancer, or genocide are God’s plan for those He loves.

I believe my injury, like many of the storms and struggles we encounter, are results of evil in a broken world.

I prefer this image.

The red line is God’s plan. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Biblical justice is mishpat, which essentially means setting things right. The red line, the arc of the moral universe, bends toward justice, toward setting things right from God’s perspective.

Justice – setting things right – is God’s plan.

God uses all circumstances, even the storms and tragedies, for good. He’s working to set things right, though the arc is long. We’re invited to join in that process, but we must maintain our long-term perspective. God works on His timeline. We may not see the results in a lifetime or even a generation.

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2017 was tough for me because I want immediate resolution to a long-term issue. I lost sight of the long arc, of the story of RELENTLESS GRACE.

I’d like to say, “Problem Solved!” but, to be honest, the problem isn’t really solved. I said a while back, “30 years is a long time. Or it’s the blink of an eye.” I know it’s the blink of an eye, but right now, frankly, it feels like a very, very long time.

I know how the story ends, where the arc leads, but I don’t like the wheelchair chapter. It’s hard and I’m tired of it and knowing the long arc bends toward justice isn’t the answer I want but it’s the answer I got.

I suspect I’m not the only one seeking a different response.

I’m still grateful for RELENTLESS GRACE. I believe Jesus walks with me, as He has throughout this incredible journey.

As 2018 begins, He and I need to talk.

How about you? As we roll into a New Year, what do you and Jesus need to talk about?