The BBC World Service published an article in 2004 about Harpreet Devi, an Indian taxi driver, who decided he would drive in reverse until peace is established between India and Pakistan, two nuclear rivals. The idea came to him when his forward gears jammed and he was forced to drive home in reverse. Driving home in reverse generated the thought to become a specialist in reverse driving for a cause.
Apparently Mr. Harpreet Devi has driven in reverse for awhile now to accomplish a mission: the oneness of India and Pakistan. He has even taken a mortgage on his house to help with the cost of this mission. Harpreet believes in “reverse philosophy,” convinced that that you can “improve a situation by going into reverse.” He hopes to reverse the disunity between India and Pakistan and bring them “back to what they were before independence.”
Mr. Devi has some back and neck pain from driving in reverse but stresses that it’s worthwhile because in order “to achieve something, you have to do something.” He doesn’t mind the pain and thinks of it as necessary because “it’s right that I should be experiencing pain.” He also adds that by “God’s grace” he has suffered no accidents.
This is obviously an unorthodox way of driving. But what might Mr. Devi’s driving in reverse teach us aside from the reality that human beings can get used to anything (which is a scary thought)? Perhaps reverse is good for us in at least a couple of ways. We can at least say that “reversalism” affords us a view we would never have by only going forward. I have been thinking about reversalism for a little while now and have three indirectly related applications from it.
First, understanding the story of salvation as a reversal helps me to a better understanding of the gospel. Here is what I mean. As a denomination which says we are about reaching the lost world for Christ, we need to come to grips with the beginning of the gospel. For many of us the gospel was born when Jesus was born. This is not totally accurate. The good news is that God, ever since the fall, has been playing Reversalist from the start. I don’t know how much lifetime elapsed between perfect oneness with God before the fall, and independence from God at the fall. But the distance between these two biblical realities is evident and devastating as far as oneness with God is concerned.
God in his infinite wisdom has been driving us back from the fall to oneness with him ever since. The gospel begins there: Before disunity with God there was oneness with God. He did not reject humanity but made promises to us to reverse our rebellion against him. Time marched forward but God is still driving in reverse, back to Eden, back to oneness. He established a covenant community, and Christ came, and a new community is now established, all of it in order to take us back to that oneness.
Another reversalist idea has been floating in my cranny, the reversal that Mary, the mother of Jesus, sang about. I can’t quote all of her song but you can look it up in Luke 1:45-56. Notice all the reversals. Mary is a poor girl, unknown, lowly, and insignificant in her society. But now all “generations will call me blessed.” She is not mighty but the Almighty is on her side. The proud, who feel secure by false notions of power, are now scattered. The people of Mary’s ilk are gathered. The powerful sit on thrones from where they are toppled and the lowly are lifted up. The hungry, which are empty, are now filled while the rich, who are full, are now empty. The neglected are noticed and the ones who love to be noticed are neglected. And most of all God who is to be worshipped becomes a servant. God has given gifts to us in reversing our drive into perdition and misery.
The last reversalist idea is this: It is good to learn to drive in reverse when it comes to our spiritual formation. The process that the Holy Spirit leads us through to make more and more like Jesus is not always in the drive gears of ministry, and church activities. Sometimes, I would say often, it is when we slow our lives down and put ourselves in reverse gear. Our perspective changes then. Jesus lived in reverse at times. In Mark 1:35 it is said that “in the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Before this and after this, the full throttle of ministry was rambling. But for a time, regularly, Jesus would put things in reverse in order to walk with his God and ours.
I wish you a 2009 full of reverse times. I pray that you can come to see in reverse what you cannot see without a back mirror. Then you can get a better grip on the mission of God for you: Becoming conformed to the image of Christ.
PS. A little back and neck pain is a worthwhile price to pay for the view while in reverse.
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