Saturday, July 04, 2009

Wimbledon and predestination

My wife and I had a funny experience yesterday. We always watch the Wimbledon tennis matches on and around July 4 each year. So yesterday (July 3) I turned on the TV and there was Roger Federer playing Rafael Nadal. It was the last set of what would become the longest-ever men's Wimbledon final.

Immediately we were transfixed on this match between Federer and Nadal. It was reminiscent of those famous match-ups of Borg, Connors, and McEnroe that we used to watch each year.

But wait a minute, this was the Wimbledon final? My wife and I looked at each other and said, "It's just July 3. Why is the final match already taking place?" (You can tell we don't follow professional tennis very much until Wimbledon.) We surmised that there were no rain delays this year or something, so they were way ahead of schedule.

The play wore on between these two tennis greats, until finally Nadal pulled off one of the greatest victories ever: 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. We were elated!

Then there was a commercial break. When Wimbledon resumed, they were talking about Federer playing in the men's final on Sunday, July 5. What?! That's when it dawned on us clueless people. We had been watching LAST YEAR'S Wimbledon final! It was all on tape. Obviously we had missed the 2008 matches, and didn't know that Nadal beat Federer last summer.

Then I got to thinking theologically...

What if that's how predestination works? God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass. In his mind it's all taken place already. For God, who transcends time, all of history is one cosmic moment which he has planned down to the tiniest detail. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will (Matthew 10:29). No power in heaven or hell can circumvent or spoil his plans.

But from our point of view, history unfolds second by second in all its unpredictable and unknowable glory. We experience day by day what has already been mapped out in the mind of God. We exult or weep as triumphs and tragedies take place. We are taken by surprise by events that never surprise God. We get the pleasure of enjoying life and anticipating what is yet to happen, while God sovereignly ensures that his purposes stand fast.

When my wife and I realized what was going on, we laughed. Holy, happy laughter is the only conceivable response to the realization that God is sovereign and in control.

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