Prolepsis (A Word for the Weary)
Prolepsis is a literary term that refers to flash forwards, foreshadowing, and/or anticipation in a story. In terms of our walk with God, prolepsis is a future event that impacts our present reality. Much of what motivates us in our faith journey is proleptic in nature. We encounter prolepsis when we read passages such as Isaiah 11:6-9
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
But the proleptic nature of our faith is not merely unfulfilled promises that we occasionally daydream about. Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God is a proleptic vision. However, he was clear that the vision was not simply a future, utopian event. It is not something that is out there somewhere away from us, relatively detached from the here and now. It is an anticipation that so radically changes our current perspective that it is, in fact, already here. He said it this way in Luke 17:20-21
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Nonetheless, there are times when the only strength we can find for pushing forward is simply knowing that the hard work that is weighing us down now will pay off in the end. And for days like that we have the simple instruction of Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Perhaps you are weary today. Perhaps you have been doing a lot of things, a lot of good things. If you can so anticipate the future reality of the kingdom that it suddenly springs up from your heart and radically changes your perspective on life that is great. But if all you can do is remind yourself of why you are doing what it is that you are doing? Well, that is good enough, at least for one more day. Take a deep breath, clear your head, and (re)mind yourself. Remember why you committed to the task ahead of you, what the future payoff will be. Consider Matthew 25:21
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
You work today in order to hear those words on another day. But know this as well. While he may not put your in charge of many things until THAT day, he still sees you on THIS day. When you find the strength to press forward knowing that it will pay off to hear those words you are pleasing to God NOW. So, you may have to wait for both the rewards and rest that come in Heaven. But when you get back up and do it again today he is already smiling upon you. And TODAY you share your master’s happiness.