God gives us an incredible, living resource with which to navigate life, but we have to discover what it is and allow ourselves to be changed in the process.
One of the most venerable science fiction series in the Western world is Star Trek. Most people, even if they’re nowhere near a ‘Trekkie’, are at least passingly familiar with Captain Kirk, Spock, “Live long and prosper” and the famous Vulcan salute.
After so many decades with so many different storytellers adding their versions, J. J. Abrams joining the long Star Trek legacy with his own take. In his debut reboot of the series, he introduced viewers to an alternate timeline; all the familiar characters are living very different lives. Spock and Kirk are not only no longer allies; they’re actually rivals in Starfleet. Meanwhile, a strange villainous group appears and blames Spock for the destruction of their home planet, so they bomb Spock’s home planet in return. As icing on the cake, they force a much older, future version of Spock to travel out of his own timeline — Yes, there’s time travel involved because…sci-fi. Why not? — and then maroon him on a nearby moon to watch his people die.
In this timeline, the young version of Spock also watches his home be destroyed. He’s shocked and grieving and trying to make the right decisions in this impossible situation with enemies who hate him and whom he’s never met, at least not this version of him. The only one who can help is Kirk who has met the older Spock and been commissioned by him to help younger Spock.
Near the end, old Spock and young Spock finally meet, and the younger one asks, “Why did you send Kirk…when you alone could have explained the truth?”
“Because you needed each other,” older Spock answers. “I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together. Of a friendship that will define you both in ways that you cannot yet realize. “
He then urges his younger self to not give up his pursuits out of guilt or misplaced feelings of duty. His abilities and gifts will serve a greater purpose in Starfleet as they help bring peace to the galaxy and as he learns to work alongside people like Kirk.
The idea of being able to meet our younger selves is an appealing one for many reasons; as we look back with the benefit of age and greater wisdom, we have advice we probably wish we could offer a more impetuous version of ourselves.
In the Truth & Grace podcast, host John Bailey explained, “When I was 20-something, there were probably a lot of things I was blind to in myself, and I would probably slap my 20-something self on the side of the head and go, ‘Hey, you know you need to cop on to yourself on something.’ Another area for me was I wasn't always very authentic. There were a lot of things that I…struggled and walked through and battled with that I wish I could go back and go find those trusted friends and really navigate through that.”
We can’t actually go back in time, as much as we might wish it. Science fiction is exactly that: fiction. However, we can learn something about what we wish to tell our past selves.
As they were discussing what they would tell their past selves, fellow podcast host Mark Renfroe noted, “It sounds like one of the things that's driving your suggestion changes, especially as it relates to this topic, is making values-based decisions as opposed to comfort-based decisions. Like you weren't just looking for the best salary, the best position. You know, what made you feel the best necessarily. But there was a value system underneath that that was driving those decisions.”
Choosing to make value-based decisions is a lifelong skill the hone. It’s far easier to react based out of our emotions or desire for security rather than think about what may be hard now but better for the long haul. Paul himself explored some aspect of this when he wrote, “Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes” (2 Corinthians 1:17-19, ESV).
Especially when it comes to God’s instructions and plans, our decisions have to depend on factors other than our feelings. The emotions are very real, particularly stress, anxiety or eagerness. They can’t determine our choices, though. Scripture advises us, “Who is the man who reverently fears and worships the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way that he should choose” (Psalm 25:12, AMPC) and “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, ESV).
Part of how we can make sure we make those value-based decisions when we’re high in emotions and still trying to follow God’s calling is to have trustworthy people in our lives.
On this very subject in the podcast, Mark Renfroe mused, “I think that it's important to understand that who you're going to be in 20, 30, 40 years from now is going to have a lot to do with who you surround yourself with. I want to be able to impact everybody. I'm going to have compassion on people whose lives are broken. You know, I want to have the ability to touch people in every segment of society, regardless of where they are. But that doesn't mean I'm inviting them all into my inner circle. I want people who I'm going to help encourage upward, and they're going to help encourage me upward, that I'm going to grow because that person's my friend.”
The Bible succinctly agrees, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Companions are not fully invested or engaged in your life; they may come to parties or casually chat about your achievements, but they don’t know the deepest, broken parts of your heart.
On the other hand, we may not pick our siblings, but we may choose our friends. Finding someone who is completely unrelated to you and yet is mysteriously more interested in you and your life than family is a rare experience. It’s a relationship with immeasurable value because it was never guaranteed. These beautiful people land in our lives and stay of their own free will, and they pour into us and accept our thoughts and suggestions. They are the ones, as Mark Renfroe pointed out, whom God most often uses to build us into his callings.
In the Bible, Paul urged people to work on becoming these kind of people in other people’s lives. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Encouragement is more than simply saying nice things. It requires close observation of a person in order to say something truly meaningful. It might be acknowledging their half-hidden feelings or taking a real interest in their observations and thoughts. Offering advice on how to improve in an area that they love is an even deeper encouragement. Helping someone in a field or activity they love is another way. In this way, we become the kind of sibling-friend that others desire.
Once you find someone else willing to return this interest and care, you’ve found that relationship which can transform your life, if you nurture it and give it time. Maybe it’s a little silly to compare these friendships to a science fiction story about two guys in space, but this line sticks with me. “You needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together. Of a friendship that will define you both in ways that you cannot yet realize. “ Whenever I remember it, I am also reminded of the power that God wove into friendships.