I know the expression is “two steps forward and one step back,” but there are times when this sounds a little too optimistic! On those days we might instead be saying “two steps forward and 1.75 steps back.” Or one may feel as though reversing the numbers is more appropriate – “One step forward and two steps back.”
That’s how it has been for our Detroit Tigers this summer. After an atrocious first month they have been fighting all season to get up to playing .500 baseball. However it seems as though every time they near that mark (I think they even hit it once) they fall into a mini losing streak. Like I said, “two steps forward and one step back,” or something like that.
The fight against COVID-19 has been very similar. We make progress, and then we lose ground. We get new answers and hope, and then discover additional questions and frustrations. Official approval of the Pfizer vaccine comes as hospitalizations in some states multiply. The Canadian border opens up but returning to the US remains a pain. Two – or so – steps forward and one – or so – steps back.
This week I watched a series of short videos that walk through the history of the Old Testament. I think many of you would receive both enjoyment and benefit from watching them. Here is the link: https://www.bible.com/videos/collections/15-bibleproject-read-scripture-old-testament. It was put together by The Bible Project.
What got my attention was how similar the Old Testament narrative is to our story today. Progress was slow and painful when you could sense it. However, many times things were more like “One step forward and two steps back.” Still, through it all, God was actually moving things forward … putting all the pieces together for the promised Messiah to come.
People forgot about his coming. Others misunderstood the promises. There were conspiracies and lies, false hopes and false prophets, moral failures, betrayals, and more misguided leaders than one could count. Yet through it all there was one consistent and true hero … the one who always kept promising that “to all who would receive him, who believed in his name, he would give the right to become children of God.” (John 1.12)
And then, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4.4-5) “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1.9) and many were filled with hope and confidence. “Yet – though he was in the world, and the world was made through him, the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1.10-11)
Though in a very significant way the world was forever changed, in many ways things remain the same … Two steps forward and then one step back … one step forward and two steps back. This is what we see and experience. Yet through it all there remains one consistent and true hero … the one who always keeps promising that “to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.” (John 1.12)
I am somewhat doubtful that the Tigers will reach .500 this year, and what COVID-19 and its variants will bring no-one knows. However, of this we can be certain … no matter what the world scene looks like, the underlying narrative during this New Testament era is the same as that of the Old Testament. God is actually moving things forward … putting all the pieces together for the promised Messiah to come again – this time, seated on his throne and proclaiming, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21.5) No more two steps forward and one step back, just “the fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16.11)