I will never forget December 20, 2015.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. After church, I routinely plop down in my favorite leather couch to rest, reflect on the morning’s services, and prepare for the week ahead. This particular afternoon had been peaceful as usual, and I was beginning to doze off for my usual Sunday afternoon nap, when I suddenly received an odd text from my wife, Michelle, asking me to “meet her at the park” by our house. Intrigued, I withheld all questions for the moment, and quickly hopped in the car to meet her at the park as requested. Upon arriving, I found her sitting on a near park bench, smiling nervously with an “early Christmas present” in hand. Of course, I pretended this was a perfectly normal scenario and proceeded to unwrap her gift, with a small suspicion of what it could be that she so urgently needed to give me. In the bag, I found exactly what my mind had prepared to receive: two positive pregnancy tests, telling me I was about to go on the wonderful adventure of becoming a Father! My wife and I were so completely overjoyed to be expecting our first baby!
Little did we know, that day in December was only the beginning of a long 9-month journey that would lead up to the arrival of our son. The months ahead were filled with more detailed preparation than I ever imagined. As a first-time Dad, I had no clue what would be needed to bring a child into the world, but I sure learned fast! The moment I realized I had just spent an entire Saturday afternoon at Babies-R-Us, I understood life was about to change.
Thrown into the world of “baby,” my wife and I began adding weekly doctor appointments to our calendar, along with all the birthing and breathing prep classes, hospital tours, and hours spent reading through parenting books. My free weekends were now happily spent painting nursery-room walls, hanging decor, building cribs, assembling baby gadgets, and spending hours on the phone with insurance companies planning for endless medical bills (apparently babies are expensive too!) Before the baby shower, Michelle and I spent nearly 5 hours wandering around the world’s largest baby store, registering for every newborn gizmo known to mankind. Then, strange things I had never even heard of began popping up on our schedule- like what in the world was a gender reveal party and who on earth came up with the idea of a maternity photo shoot?!
There were birth plans to be made and hospital bags to pack and baby clothes to wash/dry. There were car-seats to install, stroller/high chair instruction manuals to read, and last minute swaddle blankets and burp cloths to buy. The preparations seemed to never end.
In the midst of these plans, I began to think how similar our preparations for our unborn child so closely mirrored the way we have been called, as Believers, to prepare for Heaven someday.
At the end of my wife’s pregnancy, we knew our child would enter this world whether or not we were ready or prepared. Although we were given an estimated due date, we did not know exactly when my wife would go into labor. We did not know how it would happen or where it would happen. Yet, we knew we would face the birth of our child at some point and we wanted to be ready for when he came.
In the same way, at the end of our time on earth, we will each find ourselves face to face with our Creator, whether or not we are ready. We don’t know when we will meet Jesus. We don’t know exactly where or how we will go to meet Him, if He will return for us or we will leave earth and pass away before He comes. God makes it clear that no one knows the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32).
Yet, both childbirth for the pregnant woman and Heaven for the Believer prove to be inevitable realities. Both are imminent. Both require continual thought and preparation, and we live in constant expectation of their arrival. How easy it can be to prepare for earthly events: having a baby, buying a home, planning a wedding, graduating college, saving for retirement, etc. Yet, at the end of the day, James 4:14 reminds us that “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” If we can spend such an exorbitant amount of time planning for quickly-passing moments on this earth (Ecclesiastes 1:14), how much more should we be living each day in preparation for all of eternity!
Matthew 24:41-44 gives us a picture of how quickly the day of the Lord’s return will come and how we do not want to be caught sleeping when He comes for us: “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Friends, we are not guaranteed tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1, James 4:13-14). Now is the time to start living with urgency! Whether Jesus comes back for us or we go to be with Him first, we are called to be ready as if that moment is today. If we haven’t begun to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ return, storing up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20), and living each day with the expectation of eternity before us at any moment, it’s time to begin!
Life is short! Let’s begin living out love the way 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes: patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not insisting on our own way, not irritable or resentful, rejoicing in the truth. Today, let’s begin loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Let’s be quick to forgive and slow to hold on to bitterness (Colossians 3:13); quick to listen and slow to speak and become angry (James 1:19). Let’s put away fear and worry and begin striving to out-serve, out-give, and out-love those around us.
I encourage you today: do not be caught unprepared for eternity! Begin preparing as if you were going to meet Jesus today!