Elementary, middle and high school were supposed to prepare me for what? College, right? And, college was supposed to prepare me for a career and the rest of my life. Riiiiiiiiight….
I’m not sure if I’m ever fully prepared for what is happening in any particular moment. Most of what I experience is predictable, yet unforeseen. I know something is coming. The details seem to never turn out exactly the way I plan. But, nevertheless, I diligently prepare for all things.
My wife and I prepared for our first child. We “set up” the nursery, painting it and decorating it. My wife read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I listened to the relevant excerpts as she relayed them to me. Then, the baby came. Again, predictable. But, yet, we had a feeling of not being fully capable even though we fully prepared. I remember my wife commenting as we were leaving the hospital, “How do they expect me to care for this baby all by myself? What will happen when I need to ask the nurse a question?”
Prepared. Yet, not.
I have prepared for conversations. In the midst of interpersonal conflict I tend to over prepare. I replay the hypothetical conversation (or confrontation) over and over again, seemingly trying to prepare for every inevitable response I might receive from the other person. It never (and I mean NEVER) turns out any of the ways I rehearsed. Many times it turns out better, saving me some of the agonizing (or ugly) dialogue I have prepared.
Again. Prepared. But, not.
When I was in high school, I would invariably work up enough courage to call and ask out a girl. I had my lines all in my head. I would dial the phone number to her house (notice the ancient references to the use and function of a telephone). Every time the phone would ring and ring and ring (before answering machines). No one would answer. She wouldn’t be home.
Prepared. But no result.
I’m not very well prepared for tomorrow. I have my 401(k). We are saving for college for our children. I have a life insurance policy that will pay off the house if I die. But, I have no idea what complexity will face me in the coming days, months or years. My preparation is not foolish. But, it is foolish to think I can prepare for every inevitability.
My step-dad is dying. He has pulmonary fibrosis. He has spent the last week in the hospital. He is not getting better. A few days ago the doctors gave him anywhere from two weeks to six months of life left. That seems like quite a wide range. (note: he actually died some hours after I originally wrote this) How does one prepare for that? In talking with my mom, we remind each other to live one day at a time, enjoying each day completely. Even that won’t prepare us for the inevitability of his death.
Ironically, Advent started this week. As my family faces inevitable death, so must we face certain birth. Advent is the time for preparation. But, it makes me think, am I ever really prepared for the reality of Jesus being born into my life?
My family is going through the motions of preparing. We are decorating the house. My wife put together a cute Christmas card with all of our smiley faces. I will write the annual Christmas letter this week. We will plan and buy gifts for one another. We will attend Christmas parties, sing Christmas carols and even go to services on Christmas Eve. All of it, great preparation.
Prepared. But not.
Jesus, when I really take his life seriously, has a way of changing the predictable outcomes in my life. When I seek Jesus and the real meaning of his birth into my life, I begin to see the world differently. God tends to reveal surprising outcomes that extend beyond my ability to predict. And, to be honest, while I like predictability, I don’t want to subject myself to a world where I have ALL the answers.
Let me be clear. I’m still a fan of preparation. But, maybe it is my expectation that needs the biggest adjustment.
Prepared. And, ready to embrace something for which I am unprepared.