There are certain dates that are emblazoned into our collective memory:
- Dec. 7, 1941 - the attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Nov. 22, 1963 - the assassination of JFK.
- Sept. 11, 2001 - the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Everyone alive remembers exactly where they were when these tragedies took place. I remember my dad talking to us about Pearl Harbor, and telling us how he heard the news as his family was returning home from church on Sunday afternoon. I distinctly remember the morning of 9/11 being a bright and beautiful fall day as several of us drove to a circuit pastors meeting in rural Kansas. The radio was off, and the conversation was hearty, so we didn’t find out what happened until we arrived at the church later that morning.
It’s almost as if these moments are captured and frozen in time, indelibly inscribed upon our memory. Earth-shattering events like these have a powerful impact on us at the time that they happen, but they also have a way of haunting us as they shape and mold our world for generations to come. There’s always a part of us that wonders, “Why did it have to happen in the first place?”
What if there was a way to go back and change history? What if someone was able to come in from the outside to change things for the better?
That’s the premise of Stephen King’s 2011 novel, 11-22-63. The story is centered around a teacher named Jake Epping, who unwittingly finds a time-travel portal in the closet of a local diner. He and the diner owner get together and concoct a plan to travel back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald and save President John F. Kennedy’s life. There are many misadventures along the way, but eventually, Jake completes his mission and becomes a national hero (for a while at least).
Interestingly, JFK was not the only national figure who died on November 22, 1963. Though his death certainly took up most of the headlines, the acclaimed writers C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley also died that day as well. All three men were well known at the time, but for very different reasons. They were all diametrically opposed to one another in philosophy, outlook, and worldview. Kennedy was a secular humanist, Huxley was an atheist, and Lewis was a Christian apologist. And yet they all sought to answer the question: “What if someone was able to come in from the outside to change things for the better?”
Though JFK's death certainly took up most of the headlines, the acclaimed writers C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley also died that day as well.
In 1944, Aldous Huxley wrote a novel called Time Must Have A Stop. It is a story about a young poet named Sebastian, who is living the high life on holiday in Florence with his rich atheist uncle. When his uncle unexpectedly dies, Sebastian resorts to thievery and ends up selling one of his uncle’s paintings to get by. Consumed by guilt over what he has done, he seeks out another relative for help, his distant cousin Bruno, a religious bookstore owner. Bruno is able to help him get back the painting that he had stolen but at a high cost to him and his life. Transformed by Bruno’s sacrifice, Sebastian embarks on his own spiritual journey by the end of the book.
In 1943, C.S.Lewis published, Perelandra, the second book in his popular Space Trilogy. Dr. Edwin Ransom travels to Perelandra (or Venus) at the behest of the ruler of Malacandra (or Mars), whom Ransom encountered in the first book of the series, Out Of The Silent Planet.
Ransom’s mission is to counter an attack on Perelandra by the ruler of Thulcandra, or Earth. This satanic attack on the paradise of Perelandra is like Satan vs. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, except on a different planet. Ransom eventually takes on a man named Weston, who has traveled there to do the Tempter’s bidding and lure the innocent king and queen of the planet into iniquity. Ransom (as the Christ figure) finally does battle with Weston and defeats him in mortal combat, leaving Perelandra pure and unstained by sin.
So what if there was a way to change history? What if someone was able to come in from the outside to change things for the better?
As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. It is in the life, death, and resurrection of the God/Man, Jesus Christ, that the curse is reversed, every evil is undone, and everything sad finally comes untrue. It is indeed the one true myth – the one event that seems too good to be true – yet still actually is.
It all happened in real-time, in a real place, to real people. And the best part? It still happens for us today as we come to him in faith and gather around his word and his supper, and as we join together with all the saints in every time and place, from every tribe and nation who surround the throne saying, “Blessing and honor and glory and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”
It is in the life, death, and resurrection of the God/Man, Jesus Christ, that the curse is reversed, every evil is undone, and everything sad finally comes untrue.