About five years ago, our area in New York was hit with a brutal snowstorm. With gale force winds, we were pummeled by a foot and a half of snow, right in the middle of October. Never in a million years did we imagine having to trick-or-treat through snow banks. During that time, a majority of the area lost power, and entire neighborhoods were without electricity for a week and a half, with our family being a part of that chaos. Being autumn, the temperature wasn’t too bad, but without power, we had no water (lousy well pump), no refrigeration, and no television or internet entertainment. So, we found ourselves scrambling for dry ice, showering with seltzer water, and stocking up on flashlight batteries. It was around that time that we decided we should own a generator.
During the electrical outage, we could hear these generators steadily vibrating at other people’s houses as the hum of our heart’s jealousy kept in harmony. We searched everywhere for one to purchase, every Lowe’s and Home Depot, every online center, every hardware store within 500 miles, but nobody had one, because everybody wanted one. We never ended up getting one during the outage, but two months later, we found one to purchase, well beyond when we really needed it. It was a lot of money, too. At the time, it seemed so silly to be plunking down so much cash for something that we didn’t and probably wouldn’t need in the foreseeable future. Being a young couple in a new house, we didn’t have the money to spare. Yet, we invested in the somewhat unimaginable future.
For five years, that generator sat there and gathered dust in the corner of my garage. Each time I did laundry, I’d think about how much money I spent on something that seemed so useless. Granted, it gave me peace of mind that if something should happen, I’d be set, but it seemed like buying insurance for a day that would never come.
Until it did.
A few weeks ago, we had four Nor’easters in our area, and one of them knocked out power in our town for days. With freezing temperatures, we dusted off the generator, read the instructions (I’d never used it before, remember?), turned it on, plugged it in, and turned the house back on. It was a glorious moment to see everything roar back to life despite our current situation. I’d never been so happy to have bought that generator. But the people who weren’t so happy were those that had gone through that first storm years ago and decided to do nothing in preparation for this storm. And sure enough, getting a generator now was too little, too late, too few available. They watched my house with that same jealousy I felt years ago, wishing they could go back and buy a generator when they should have, when they didn’t need it. If only they could undo their actions and invest in an unforeseeable future.
It’s hard to live with the desire to go back and undo our past actions. Thankfully, Google has a solution for that. I discovered it a few years ago when I sent an email and realized I had horribly misspelled the recipient’s name. I felt that that same feeling we all get when we accidently send a text meaning to say that someone is “the sweetest” but our phones autocorrect it to “the sweatiest.” Google now has an option to undo any sent email message. The way it works is that when you send your email, Google holds it for 30 seconds, so you get time to rethink your actions. So many times, this function has come in handy, whether because of poor proofreading or unchecked emotion. If only life had an undo button, where we could go back and change our actions because we weren’t aware of how much we needed to change something for the present.
For the rich man of Luke 16, having an undo button in his life is an understatement. He lived lavishly, never being denied anything, while Lazarus, a beggar, ate when he could. The rich man knew every comfort in life, whereas Lazarus knew not a single one. When they both died, the rich man went to Hades and the beggar went to the right hand of Abraham. The rich man begged for relief from his agony as he was being tortured forever. “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us’” (16.25-6).
If only the rich man could “undo” the actions in his life that led him to this unreturnable point, and he could take back all of the poor investments he made when he was alive. Had he invested in a future that was hidden to him, he would have ended up in a better position, but since there is no “undo” button in the afterworld, he was forced to accept his fate.
It’s hard to plan for a time that is hidden from us. Making an investment in an unforeseeable future seems futile and pointless at the time, but had Noah listened to the advice and laughter of his neighbors, he and his family would never have survived the flood. Since life doesn’t come with an undo button, we need to plan in faith for future consequences, ensuring that we are well-prepared for when the worst, or the best, comes. In that way, when the end comes for us all, we cannot claim ignorance or a lack of time, as we had the knowledge and the resources to prepare. This week, despite all that may be going your way, prepare yourself for when change might come. Assess your situation and evaluate just how prepared you are, as like the rich man, there is no chance to undo your circumstances and take back the poor investments you’ve made. Instead, invest in a future with wisdom and preparedness. Amen.