The Linear Cyclicity of History

“The linear…what? Cyclicity?! Huh? Of History. Ok. You’ve lost me!” Yeah. It’s a mouthful, but I think it paints the perfect word picture.

There are a few schools of thought on the path of history, whether it’s linear or cyclical. And while this particular variant may be covered in a book, somewhere, I’m going to throw this idea down here, as it has been burning a hole in my brain for some 20 years now. History is neither linear, NOR cyclical, but it is linearly cyclical. =)

By this, I mean that history is not a straight line from the past to the future, nor is it just a series of cycles, each varying from the next, but that it is a series of fits and starts with a central aim and an unexpected opposition. If we look through history, we will see many patterns repeated; even in the present, our President has repeated many patterns of previous Presidents, believing, it seems, that the date and technological differences make certain choices more likely to succeed this time than last time.

Now, it may seem like the cyclical side of history is evident. I would tend to agree. What I think is equally evident, but requires some careful observation, is that history also has a linear aspect to it. By that, I am seeking to acknowledge the very feeling we all experience that, “I can do better.” We see someone do something, and we find ourselves thinking we can improve on the action, design, or idea. In one sense, we acknowledge that we may start another cycle of the same failure, but we feel that something has changed, and thereby believe that we can shift that cycle in some way. (To be clear, this feeling, alone, is insufficient to justify many cycles, and it is likely to be wrong, but if the approach is carefully considered and the outcomes honestly assessed, then the feeling is merely a spark, not the fire itself.)

Thus, I believe there is an inherent linear aspect to our cyclical history. And this is where it dawned on me, what I’m talking about is a spiral! If you take a set of cycles, place them on a line, and allow the progression through time, you have a spiral. Now, spirals can be good and bad. “He’s winding up…” “Oh, he’s wound himself up good!” “It’s time to wind down.” “That’s a tailspin, pull up! Pull up!” Spirals are just another shape in our universe, but once we recognize the shape, we can ask a question, and I think the question is the key to this revelation.

“Well, where is the spiral leading?” See, spirals, by virtue of being spirals point toward spin out from a destination. Looking the other way, they spin out from a point of origin. And either way we ask the question, we come to similar conclusions. The spiral of history is spinning out from creation. And where it is leading, or what is the trending of this spiral? The trend is the increasing sinfulness of man, leading to an end for our world. When? I refuse to guess, as Jesus Himself (God on foot!) said “But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angles of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36). In other words, God the Father withheld this knowledge from even JESUS, yo! Just let that sink in. (Having lost friends to the darkness of false prophets, please heed this caution: If someone tells you they KNOW when Jesus will return, or that He has already returned, THEY ARE LYING!!!!)

So, that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it? Honestly? Yeah. A little. But I temper that depression with the reality that there is still time to be saved! There are still chances for this world to turn back tides of sin, if folks would begin turning their hearts and minds away from the pleasures and trappings of sin and to the purity and riches of Jesus, following Him with everything, in every way, and beyond any limits. You see (I hope), this world doesn’t have to end with all things under sin and all people’s in pain and anguish.

“Whoa! Didn’t God say it would?” Yes. But that’s like saying that Los Angeles is going to be underwater in 100 years, so we might as well abandon the town now. WHAT?!? Hundreds to thousands of square miles of land, homes, and businesses, just abandoned because of something that’ll happen in 100 years? In the same way, it is ludicrous (hear me well, LU-DI-CROUS!) for us to give up on this world because it will end one day! We must stand up and fight for the lives, the spiritual, eternal lives, of our loved-ones and neighbors!

The Spartans of Greece once had a saying they’d tell their soldiers before they’d go out to battle; “come back WITH your shield, or ON it!” The idea being that you leave nothing on the field but death or your own blood. You don’t lay down your weapons; you don’t surrender! You fight until the enemy is defeated or until you are dead!

Scripture uses the imagery of a shield to describe faith, the love of God, and God Himself. If we apply this imagery back to the Spartan claim, we find ourselves saying, “Come back WITH your faith and your Lord, or ON your faith and His Word!” Suddenly, this statement which seemed almost cruel becomes an amazing statement of hope! It lifts us to a place where we now see the battle at hand, not of “flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12-13) And having had to engage such battles myself, I can testify that it is easy to get lost in your flesh, thinking it’s all about you and your ability to coerce, to punch, or to twist arms (figuratively or literally). But my dear Reader, it is not about any of those things, for we serve a God so powerful that when He is roused to battle, no army can face Him, no bureaucrat dare oppose Him, and no authority dare speak over Him.

Dear Reader, this world is spiraling, as sin weaves its webs and sinks its fangs into the hearts of men and women. And while this world may yet be doomed to face judgment for its willful rebellion against the One, True God, it’s Creator, we are called to the battlefield, to contend for our loved-ones and neighbors, through prayer, through Biblical study and living, and through living life with each other (including said loved-one and neighbors) that we might, through our actions, our shown-love, and our conversations, may bring any-and-all-that-will-come to Jesus.

What an amazing opportunity? How can anyone say no? What an adventure to press into?

How great the God that we serve! Amazing that He loves to deeply and so sacrificially as to seek each and every one of us out to make Himself known and to offer (as a gentleman, not required) the opportunity to be saved and to know Him! I don’t know why anyone would reject Him, but let us dwell not on that thought, but let us set our eyes completely on Him, the One who set aside all of heaven to come walk among us, as a nobody, and to die a brutal, terrible, fearsome, and gruesome death to be the sacrifice for my sins (past, present, and future). I am not perfect, but His perfect and overwhelming love continues to draw me out of my failures and compels me to be more like Him, everyday. How amazingly incomprehensible is this love! Our God is like NO other god! Our God is amazing in power, in wisdom, and absolutely overwhelming in love! Our God is above and beyond all we can ever think or imagine, and He chooses to know us, a mere speck in the grandiosity of the universe. Even greater, He chooses to love us and provide for us, though we amount to a grain of sand or a speck of dust in a hidden crevice. How great is our God!

Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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