Before is a word we may not think of a great deal because it points to something that is about to happen that seems larger in importance than now. It is a time filled with anticipation but that anticipation may be positive or charged with fear and anxiety. Sometimes we don’t like the word before very much because it makes us wait.
Our memories are filled with things like that from childhood onward. Before you go out to play, you need to finish your homework. Before you race down the stairs and start tearing open Christmas gifts, you need to wait until your parents tell you it’s okay. And the list goes on and on for us. It’s some of those early memories about before that remind us of not only the anticipation but also the waiting.
Before also means preparation. We are often eager to get something over with to get to the next thing we think is better. We need to take training and pass tests before we can drive or do any number of things that require a level of skill or knowledge. As I write this, several come to mind immediately. A friend is soon to have surgery and was asked to prepare by doing various exercises to make recovery more successful post surgery. Our oldest grandson and his fiancee are eagerly counting down the days until they marry but first preparation means premarital counseling to better equip them for that new season ahead.
When we are expecting a baby, all those months before he or she arrives is filled with preparation. Some involves the physician’s care, but there is so much more. The baby will need a special place to sleep, clothes, and a vast assortment of items to prepare. If you are blessed, you will have those who have gone through this process before giving you pointers on what to expect about labor and delivery, loss of sleep during the early months at night, and so much more you cannot know unless you have been there. These preparations are all vital to when you first hold this wee one in your arms and are struck by wonder and an awareness that you are now the one responsible for this little gem and those helping you in the hospital will hand off everything to you before you are sure you are ready. That all happens before as you prepare to go home and begin family life together.
We also will have more than a few times that we wish we had known more before something happens. We think we would have prepared more, been better equipped in some way. We both want and are edgy about getting warnings about something in advance. In many cases we are aware knowing more doesn’t help as much as we wish because we don’t really have as much control as we hope.
We are all living in the now and not yet, the time before whatever is about to happen across the entire spectrum of our lives. That can be and often does stir many feelings in us, but it has been that way since the beginning of time. A classic example is how we are now anticipating the days before Christmas even as those in Israel were anticipating the birth of the Messiah based on hundreds of prophecies. Some were preparing, others were not. Some were ready and believed. Others missed the reality of what occurred on that night in Bethlehem.
We’re living in a parallel time now. Prophecies tell us the Christ will return and we are living in the now and the before. We have not been given a date even as there was no exact date before He came as a baby thousands of years ago. How are we preparing and what is our anticipation about it?
But as you ponder that, there is something else to keep in focus.
Before now, before the history of the world, God was preparing for us. He was preparing the wonders of the earth and all its beauty for us to inhabit. He wanted to make humankind for fellowship with himself and knew we would be fallible so planned before to send a Savior to heal our brokenness and make a way for us where there would have been no way without such a perfect sacrifice. As God and perfect man, He experienced life as we do so He could know the weaknesses and yet not falter or fail.
As a perfect parent, He planned for each one of us knowing that we would live in a world tarnished by evil, filled with darkness and trouble, disease and loneliness, sorrow, and disappointment. And He planned for that by promising to be with us before He returns to set everything in order and take us to be with Him. Even now, before we are in that time, He is preparing for us there. While we wait, we can prepare, we can call on Him. He invites us to do that.
Tucked into Isaiah is a verse that I have read often and been blessed by as I live in the now and not yet, the now and the before.
“Before they call, I will answer;Isaiah 65:24 (ESV)
while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”
Our challenge with that verse is we have difficulty believing it unless God answers in the way we want and in the time we want. He knows the whole story and our part in it and sometimes those answers are not the ones He has for us. Reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation shows us that but also shows us his faithfulness to be with the worst of us and see us through whatever our role is. Even now before, He is with us. He wants us to be preparing to be with Him.