Sometimes it is hard to understand what someone else is going through in their own little world because it doesn’t make much sense to us based on our personal expectations and experiences so far. I often find myself judging others when I deem their expectations to be too high or suspiciously misplaced. I ask questions like, “What are they thinking?” “What were they thinking?” And above all, “What was I expecting?” I find myself expecting a lot lately, namely the delivery of my son. I’ve already had the beginning of birth pains, in fact by the time you read this, I may have already delivered. Obviously I’m all consumed with the outcome, the final result and ultimately the successful or not so successful delivery of something—someone who has been in the makings for over nine months.
The Bible frequently mentions childbirth and the laboring process as a parallel to our spiritual journey. In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about the end of time and compares it to the “beginning of birth pains.” Verse 29 says, “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” This sounds oddly familiar in relation to my experience with childbirth. Yet the hardest part has never been the PAIN in itself, yet the unknown timeframe from this mysterious BEGINNING to that elusive END. When someone says, “This is only the beginning,” you should either run the other way, or get really excited about what is to come. In the instance of our spiritual journey, such as when Jesus compares the turmoil of the end-times to “only the beginning….” do we run the other way or do we get excited about what is to come?
What journey have you started, what laborious process have you begun that leaves you wondering when the end will finally come, even amidst the hope that the final outcome might be a positive one? Often, in the church, we start things that are initiated with the hope of a positive outcome. Yet, we forget that the time from beginning to end might cause discomfort, doubt, and general all-out misery along the way. If we knew exactly at which point a “new youth program” a “new mission outreach” a “new church initiative” might painfully be delivered as a recognizable and tangible success, we might be encouraged to hang in there, even when it seems like there is absolutely no end in sight.
We all are expecting something out of our “church experience,” out of our many hours of volunteerism, our extra effort to go beyond the status quo, and our well-planned programs meant for church growth. We don’t know the exact date that all of our efforts will come to fruition and we certainly have the fear that all of our hard work, patience and determination will end with nothing to show for it. In the area of church music and worship development, there are many deliverables at stake—on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis. How can we make the best of this journey we’ve begun and how can we sustain our faith that something better is to come?
John 16:21 says, “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; But as soon as she has given birth, she no longer remembers the anguish, For joy that a child has been born into the world.”
Let’s hold on a little longer, for the unseen joy that is to come.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:16-18