In the movie "Back to the Future," Marty McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox, paid a visit to his mad scientist friend Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown, who revealed to him that he had built a car powered by plutonium that could act as a time-machine when the car reaches 88 miles per hour. Unfortunately, Marty also witnessed his friend's shooting death at the hands of Libyan terrorists angry at him for stealing plutonium for the car from them. Fleeing the terrorists in Doc's car, Marty unwittingly sped to 88 miles per hour, transporting him back to his father's era.
To save Doc was not Marty's only concern in past time; his own future existence was also jeopardized when his mother had a crush on him instead of his wimpy father. Just when his mother finally fell in love with the right person -- Marty's dad, Marty left in the same car powered this time by a bolt of lightning, but not before leaving Marty a note to warn him of his death, but the idealistic Doc ripped apart the letter, refusing to interfere into history and change the future. On his return to 1985, Marty watched helplessly the same scene as the terrorists shot Doc to death. But to Marty's relief, Doc was wearing a bulletproof vest, confessing sheepishly he had read the letter after taping it back together.
Jacob had some unfinished business to do. He had to revisit the past to realize the future. So far, God's relationship with Jacob is terribly one-sided. Jacob was the grabber and never the giver, the beneficiary and never the blessing, the receiver and never the reverse. For Jacob to become Israel, he had to confront his past, trace his path and do his part.
What is the right way to view the past? How should Christians regard what has happened to them before -- be it good, bad, or ugly? Why is the past not a potent foe but a potential friend?
Be Thou My Vision
Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." (Gen 35:1)
It's hard to leave a place after 20 years of residence. I should know after deciding to leave United State for Asia after living 21 years abroad. It was not my idea in the first place. A year before we left, my wife implored me to go with her to her native Hong Kong. She was homesick, missing her sisters terribly and desiring to teach Chinese for a change after teaching in an American university for seven years. I had gained much experience over two decades there, from starting an English worship to leading a bilingual English-Mandarin congregation and teaching in a local seminary, and from internet ministry (preachchrist.com) to literature ministry, so it was time for her to spread her wings..
Informing my church was the harder part after 10 years there, but I did not want the church to be in the dark while I was applying for ministries elsewhere. When I told the vice-chair (the pastor was the chair) I was resigning, he was shocked and answered, "I don't know what to say."