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Backspace June 3, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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Backspace sounds like a great name for a sci-fi book. Maybe I’ll write that someday, if I ever get the other stuff finished. Note to self. Finish the other books and then write that.

As a writer, I think the one key on the keyboard I strike the most is the backspace key.

I’m a fan of Doctor Who. In my childhood (this will tell some how old I may be) I watched Tom Baker, with his curly, out-of-control hair, and that outrageous, beautiful scarf. Doctor Who is a “Time Lord,” who has adventures through the universe, helping people defeat various enemies, romping from planet to planet, from past to future to past. The Daleks. The Sontarans. The Master. Zygons, Cybermen, more recently The Silence, and the Weeping Angels, to name a few. Internal conflict. Misunderstanding. Scenery from Scotland and England was prominently featured, and absolutely beautiful, as were period costumes from journeying to the past.

I loved the stories, the humour, the companions, the Jelly Babies as a gesture of friendship. Jelly Babies are still made in Sheffield England, and I just had to order some last year to try them for the first time with my family, as my kids had discovered they rebooted the show and it was just as good as ever. And jelly babies, the real thing, are delicious. We watched Tom Baker episodes on a DVD and had a sweet treat. I recommend it as a bonding experience. “Have a jelly baby” and watch Dr. Who with family, it’s fantastic.

I ordered them from Bassetts, only $5 plus shipping, it was delightful.

That’s right, #Bassett’s of Sheffield. Free advertisement.

If I were a Time Lord, with my own TARDIS to travel in, assuming it didn’t violate all the laws of time and space, I’d go back and fix it. It’d be a big backspace key on my life. But I love my backspace key because in writing, as in life, I make mistakes. How many times have my fingers stumbled just typing this short note so far, and I’ve already used the backspace?

I’m not just using the backspace from accidental keystrokes in the middle of a word, or from having my fingers in the wrong places on the keyboard. My fingers get into habits, too. At work I type the names of clients and people, and it starts. My fingers habitually type certain streams of characters, and they go on autopilot because it just feels right. When I mean to type a word, the autopilot kicks in and I have to remove the half-typed name of a customer.

Our life’s choices, the bad ones and the good ones, develop into habits the same way. We get to a comfort level doing whatever it is, good and bad. The bad choices, I’ll just call those “sins.” We know it’s wrong to do that, because we have a conscience. But sin feels somehow so very natural that when we catch ourselves in doing the thing we know in our hearts is wrong, we do it anyway, because, is there a backspace key in life? Can’t back out now. Might as well go forward with it and live with the cost and the guilt. What’s one more sin, after all?

Adultery. Just a lingering, lusty look is all it takes. It doesn’t feel wrong at all. And can lead to broken families, shattered hearts, destroyed relationships. But it just feels right, or super exciting, at the time. (Matthew 5:27) It happens all the time. Murder. Just an angry word or gesture can start someone down that road, and in the moment it just seemed like the only thing to do. Lying. Yup, I do that a lot. Bet you do too. Coveting. Yeah I saw a midnight blue Mustang that was a work of art. A travel magazine, a home and garden magazine. An article about a famous writer’s latest success. It doesn’t always motivate me to work harder, sometimes I just wish I could have that. Idolatry. Money. Food. Power. I’m my own favorite idol, and I want to do what I want without consequence, with the minions buzzing around serving me like bees serve their queen.

If there was a backspace key on life, I’d hit that thing all the time, I hope. Undo those mistakes, fix them. But there isn’t. So in lieu of that, I have a strategy, but like everything else in life, I’m trying to learn how to do it right.

Step one: make it right. For me it started with not understanding John chapter 3 in my Bible, and reading until I thought, well, maybe… So I kept on reading, not fully understanding. On through Romans chapters 1 through 3 and 10, and then First John (there were 3 letters) chapter 1. Despite my lack of a complete understanding, I started by believing I could ask for grace from God to follow and obey, and ask for forgiveness from old sins. This I take as making it right, getting the fresh start, being “born again,” from John 3, starting to follow Christ, with hope. But I’m still learning to do it right, so mistakes are made. It’s not exactly a cosmic backspace key, it doesn’t undo what was done. But God “is faithful…and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.” The assertion from I John 1 is awesome comfort to me, because I am still frequently unfaithful and I make mistakes. The habits of the past, the new mistakes of the present, I trip up and blunder into it, when I know looking at it that it’s wrong. So even as a Christ follower, I still need that grace.

Step two: start over, and leave the past in the past. Philippians 3, around verses 12-16, but the whole chapter encourages me to keep going. And even Paul extends God’s grace to the reader- only strive to do what you know to do is right, and to not do what you know to do is wrong. Which means we don’t have to know everything, just what we know. We have to study and pray and keep learning, to find out what we don’t know.

Sadly, there isn’t a cosmic backspace key. There isn’t a TARDIS. We still have to live with the scars and consequences of the past- our mistakes, other people’s mistakes, but we’re able to press on. And there is time, while we are alive, to make things right with God, and to try to make them right with other people, and start fresh. Trouble with us people is we don’t always get it right, even when we try to make it right, or other people try to make it right with us. Be patient if you are working on reconciling with people. They’re not as ready as God is to extend forgiveness or grace.

Ephesians 2:1-10 encourages me too. After we figure out the first part, God puts us right to work on the good things He plans for us. Jesus forgave Peter and gave him a job right after Peter denied Jesus and Jesus was crucified. After Peter’s moment of pride and failure, when Jesus came back from the grave, one of the first things he did was to mention Peter, then to call Peter, and then to give him his task: take care of the rest of the Christ-followers.

If you’ve never read any of the Bible, I know it’s heavy reading but if you’ve bothered getting through reading all of my ramblings I’m confident you can figure the Bible out and find it worthwhile and encouraging reading. I recommend starting with just the sections I highlighted, but I believe the rest is good and trustworthy, too. Go slow, it’s not something meant to speed-read, it’s meant to linger on, contemplate and digest slowly. But as Augustine famously is said to have heard, “Take it up and read it!”


Based on what I’ve just read, I’ve got stuff to do, and I’m encouraged to work on it. I hope you are, too. To quote Tom Baker as Dr. Who from 1975, The Ark In Space, “Steady on!”



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