By: Elan Babchuck
Over the past six months, my wife and I have met with numerous people who are greatly concerned with the year 2048. No, they’re not sci-fi buffs with whom we dreamed about flying cars (which are due next year, according to Back to the Future), but they’re a team of lawyers and financial planners with whom we have drafted our will, invested our dollars, insured ourselves, and planned for the day – long down the line – that we might retire.
These meetings – while productive and important – have been a bit strange for me. I’m a planner by nature, and I’ve always had long-term plans in mind before making any major decisions. While my high school yearbook quote may cite the overused (and oft-misunderstood) quote “carpe diem,” I actually submitted that quote after mapping out an elaborate flow-chart of the next four years of my life based on where I might choose to go to college. A free spirit I am not. But that doesn’t make it feel natural to gloss over 34 years of joy and sadness, success and failure, love and loss, for the purposes of mapping out our financial future. It was jarring, to say the least.
That said, with a growing family and increasing responsibilities, it made sense for my wife and me to make these plans for the future, and we thank God each and every day that we’re able to do so. But does this need to see the future 30+ years in advance mean that we must always cling tightly to caution, or are we still free to throw it into the wind from time to time?
Early on in the book of Exodus when Moses encounters God in the burning bush, God asks him to speak to the Israelites in order to prepare them for the long journey ahead. They’ll travel for many years, experience ups and downs, all with an eye toward arriving in the Promised Land of milk and honey, safety and security. To be sure, there is much work to be done before then, but the work, they’re assured, will pay off in the end. Moses has many concerns, but he shares just one request with God:
“When they (the Israelites) ask me, ‘What is God’s name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (I Will Be What I Will Be).” (Exodus 3:13-14)
While their conversation continues for many chapters, it culminates in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa. Again, Moses seeks to “know” God (this time asking to see God), and God gives a mysterious response, only partially satisfying Moses’ request:
Moses said to God… “Now if I have truly gained Your favor, please let me know Your ways.…Let me behold Your presence!” (Exodus 33:12-13, 18)
God responds: “I will make My goodness pass before you…but you cannot see my face, for mankind may not see Me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20)
Just as there is power in knowledge, so too is there great power in the lack thereof. In the very act of giving the Israelites the Torah, God also grants them the gift of uncertainty. Uncertainty – eternally a part of the human condition – is not something to be mourned, but to be celebrated.
I don’t know what life will bring between now and 2048. I may commute to work in a flying car, or I may finally start riding a bike to work. My wife and I may retire to Boca Raton (doubtful), or we may not retire at all. The plans we’ve drawn up these past six months may come to fruition exactly as we’ve written them, or they may not.
Whatever the future holds, of one thing I am certain: I’m profoundly humbled by the gift of life that God continues to grant me and my family each day, wherever that life may take us. As for 2048? Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.