For the past few weeks, I’ve been re-watching past seasons of Marvel’s Agents of Shield on Netflix. Season 6 starts on May 10, and I want to be ready for the new story line. A sci-fi series worthy of the name Marvel, Agents of Shield is not a family-friendly show, and I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 13. But for older kids and adults, the show has done a good job of exploring issues like the definition of good and evil, the nature of humanity, and what makes each of us the kind of person we are.
In season 4, the Shield team ended up inside a computer-generated virtual reality. Most of the agents had no idea the world they were living in wasn’t real. They made decisions, formed relationships, and did their work as their real selves—with one big difference. The virtual world had been programmed to erase from the past one major regret of each of the team members. Because each had taken a different path in the past, their present in the virtual world looked very different from their present in the real world.
Phil Coulson, instead of being the Director of Shield, was a high school history teacher. Melinda May and Leopold Fitz, instead of working for Shield (the good guys), worked for Hydra (the bad guys). Grant Ward, instead of being a Hydra spy inside Shield, was a resistance fighter working against Hydra.
The show illustrates how our past choices form each of us into the person we are today. It also reminds us that, no matter how much we regret some past decisions, we can’t erase them and see what our lives would have been like if we had gone another way. There are no computer programs that can show us with any certainty what would have happened if we had made a different choice in the past. We can guess. We can agonize over it. We can try to undo what we did. But we can’t ever go back and start again.
As Aslan said to Lucy in Prince Caspian, Book 4 of The Chronicles of Narnia, “To know what would have happened, child? No. Nobody is ever told that. But anybody can find out what will happen.”
The mistakes we’ve made in past mark us enough without carrying them around with us, always wishing things had been different—wishing we had been different. The great message of the Bible is that Jesus came to wash clean our past mistakes so that our Father in Heaven doesn’t see them anymore. So why do we keep looking back at them? Why do waste our time wishing for a better past instead of working to make a better present and a brighter future? (See, Ephesians 2:1-10.)
God is not waiting for you to undo past mistakes. Jesus has already paid the price for them. What he is waiting for is to see what you will do today, as the person you are today. It’s this moment that matters, and how you decide to live it.
The past lives in you. But you don’t have to live in the past.
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!