I spend a decent amount of time planning out my future children’s names, especially for someone who still calls her own mother several times a week with a novel spill/property damage/injury. My list grows and changes as I do, and I add to it as I think of things and people I would like to honor with a nod in my future family. As I reread the book A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L’Engle) this week, one of my all-time favorites, I thought perhaps I could use the name “Engle” as a son’s middle name. Upon further contemplation, it occurred to me that the name might appear more Marxist (Friedrich, that is) than literary, and I decided I would better honor this book in writing than in nomenclature. And that concludes my online-recipe-style long-winded backstory (why do recipe blogs always do that?!?!).
At the very beginning of A Wrinkle In Time, the character Mrs. Whatsit stuns the Murry family by informing them that “there is such a thing as a tesseract.” This term, more recently hijacked by the lesser but more lucrative Avengers franchise, is explained by Mrs. Whatsit as “a wrinkle in time,” movement from point to point not through space and time, but in spite of it. The ability to “tesser” (v.) allows the user to circumvent dimensional boundaries to access a location where they are not, and a time when they are not. In more primitive terms, it is a portal.
I’m no theoretical physicist, but I have concluded that there is, indeed, such thing as a tesseract.
It is scriptural and natural that each of us experience tribulation throughout our time on Earth—evidence of our need for communion with our Savior and Creator. This takes on different forms and degrees throughout our lives: longing, anxiety, depression, conflict, illness, etc. In speaking with a friend who is currently walking through fire, he asked me how I find peace when my heart feels unfulfilled. I answered in truth that I trust in God’s plan and regard for His children. “But that’s not practicallllll,” he moaned. I concurred. My best “practical” advice for finding purpose and peace in the chaos of sin is this: tesser.
Now, I don’t want you to interpret that advice of “tesser” as me punching your ticket on the train that takes you away from your problems. I certainly advise you not to just jump through a portal when you experience strife; that would be very impractical as well as impossible. I mean create a wrinkle in time, by which you may access who you were and who you will be. It is the ability of every person, and the obligation of every Christian, to reflect on his or her past self and the changes that have taken place since.
Knowing this powerfully enables us to be humbly grateful that God has redeemed us from where we were, and hopefully expectant that He will refine us to be better than we are. For me, this looks like taking a deliberate pause in which I converse with my past and future selves.
October is an especially poignant time for me to write about this, as some of my most consequential tesseract conversations have occurred in this month. It began in October 2018, when I was visiting Rocky Mountain National Park with my family. I didn’t have an official fall break, so I had to lug along a mountain of biochemistry homework that rivaled the vista around us. When I wasn’t hiking, in the snowed-in days and the frosty blackout nights, I chipped away at lab reports and essays and test corrections. I knew then that in a year, I’d be in the thick of medical school applications, and I couldn’t imagine anything better than being 2019 Marlee in an interview suit, talking about biochemistry as a distant memory instead of a crushing reality. So on one of those late nights, I used a tesseract to reach forward in time, to talk to my future self about how excited I was to be done and how interesting I’d find biochemistry when I stopped letting it consume me. As imaginary conversations go, it was a pretty good talk.
What 2018 Marlee couldn’t have expected was that her interview at the medical school she would soon call home would fall exactly 365 days after the day she had first tessered. And 2019 Marlee remembered their conversation, but even better, she got to be on the other side. She was finally able to tell 2018 Marlee that 2019 Marlee had indeed found an answer to prayer and renewed joy in medicine after an exhausting season, and that all the work she did in 2018 had been worth it. But 2019 Marlee still had to make it through the interview, the waiting, the rest of senior year. So she went not just backwards, but forwards, to talk to the 2020 Marlee she hoped to be.
I, as 2020 Marlee, get to tell my 2019 self of this past year’s good news, an experience which speedily rids me of any ingratitude I may feel. I also have to tell her that I am not everything she thought I might be—every year of being human brings more stumbles than I care to enumerate or describe.
But most importantly, in testifying to past Marlees of how God deliberately has made sense of the trying times, I can link each event to an area of my heart that is gentler, kinder, and wiser now. This is how I know that He uses who I was and who I will be to increase both my desire for, and my confidence in, His perfect plan.
And for the first time in a few years, I don’t have a dramatic change that I expect for 2021 Marlee; there is no great turmoil in my life right now that will one day need to be retrospectively justified. But I can still use my power of tesseract, and tell the Marlee-to-come that I hope that God has drawn near to her through every great and small tribulation that I have still to encounter.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. How do you see God’s hand in your past circumstances?
2. What do you hope comes of the season you are living through now?
3. Do you feel the years have softened or hardened your heart towards God?