When It Doesn't Look Like It Should
Today, my son turned ten, but it doesn’t look the way it should. He should be riding his new bike around the block, having a sleep-over at his cousin’s house, and eating chocolate and cake and falling exhausted into bed at night. He should have taken cupcakes to school and shared them with his classmates, or enjoyed playing down at the park with minimal supervision. That’s the way it was supposed to look, that’s the way most people expect it to look. But it doesn’t.
We assumed care of my son while he was still recovering from a premature birth. We didn’t know it then, but his brain was irreparably damaged by exposure to alcohol while still in the womb. Our boy entered the world too early, but also too late. He was meant to be nurtured in the womb of a woman able to care for him, even before she had seen him face to face, but instead the presence of alcohol stunted his cell development, shrivelled his prefrontal cortex, and heightened his brain stem activity to constant ‘fight or flight’ levels. My boy entered the world too late. The damage was done, now he and others will live with the consequences for life. Today, my son turned ten, but it doesn’t look the way it should.
As my wife and I walk the tight-rope of trying to provide him a ‘normal’ life while simultaneously sheltering him and others from the inevitable fall-out, I occasionally have a moment where the weight shifts and the beam of introspection falls squarely on me. I’m not the man I should be either.
While I enthusiastically champion grace, I know that sin has left its stain on me. I am keenly aware of the flavour of the fall I carry with me each day. Even as a man redeemed from the curse of sin, transferred out of darkness into light, yet do I still groan inwardly waiting my full redemption.
So what do I do when it doesn’t look like it should? How should we wait for the fulness of time and consummation of our salvation?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
That ‘joy’ bit at the beginning is a work in progress, right? But consider this: we have to wait while trusting that this won’t be wasted. God is ‘producing’ something, so I wait knowing that the chapter I’m reading now is not how the story ends. Rushing the story diminishes the results.
Wait With Resolve
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 ESV)
In the midst of forecasting the end of days, Paul takes the time to strengthen the resolve of those who wait. We don’t just wait idly, instead, we keep going with what we’ve been given. It’s easy for despair to lead to despondency, instead, it gives reason to plant our feet in what we’ve been taught and hold firm to what we already know.
Wait, Knowing Who We Wait With
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)
I know, the waiting feels lonely. It is tempting to believe we alone must carry this weight. But it’s a lie. We’re not alone. A great crowd, many of whom have gone before, some of whom stand at your shoulder, wait with you. So caste it off. Plant your feet. Proclaim with the rest of the crowd, “We look to Jesus! He’s writing a better story than what we can see now. We’re waiting with him.”
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV)
As Peter directs our attention to the tearing down of earthly systems and the triumphant victory of Christ, he shifts the focus from then to now. The roar of eschatology echoes backward through time and rings in our ears now. We wait with hastening expectation for the renewal of all things, and a vision where all will be as it should.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!