Beve and I had lunch yesterday with a counselor from another high school here in town. Beve has always really appreciated JH. She has a quirky sense of humor--just like Beve--and when they sit together at the interminable meetings around the district, they keep each other awake by making under-the-breath comments designed to make the other burst out laughing. JH has been a counselor around here for about 30 years (after a reasonable time teaching in the classroom)--long enough to see kids of former kids walk through her office door, and the issues of students have grown and grown and grown.
Suicides (and attempted suicides, kids in treatment (or needing treatment), children of alcoholics, addicts who follow in their parents' footsteps: these are the things Beve and his colleagues see on a daily basis. JH made the comment that her husband increasingly believes that we are in the end times, and when she considers the difference in kids and their concerns from when she started this career decades ago, she thinks he might just be right.
Maybe, we said. But as I drove home, I thought of how, when I was in high school, there was a HUGE undercurrent that Jesus' return was imminent then. That was 35-40 years ago. Of course, in God's timing (and looking back at the history of the world), 30-40 years isn't that long. It's a mere whisper. But I remember all the boys I knew who intended to be a 'bachelor until rapture'. At least that's what they claimed. As far as I know, though, only one of those boys actually managed to keep that vow. Ol' Booner, who didn't stay single for lack of trying--at least in his twenties. (But just so you know, the last time I talked to him--in June--he certainly seemed content with his lot!) There were books about the end times--The Late Great Planet Earth--and songs we sang--I Wish We'd All Been Ready--and lots of speculation, lots of discussion about whether He'd return for us before, during or after the trials (we all voted for before, if we had a vote!). However, that length of time is exactly how long the Incarnate God walked on this earth, so it isn't nothing (to use a double negative!). It's something. Not that it necessarily means something, but it isn't nothing.
So here we are, that thirty + years later, going about our lives just as if this earth will last forever. And what hit me yesterday is that both of these attitudes are exactly how we should live. Not the ridiculous vow stuff (which also included some of us thinking we wouldn't have kids) but with one eye slanted toward Heaven. With our lamps full of oil and lit to light His return. No matter when He comes, whether in our life time or another thousand years, we must be ready. Waiting. Watching for Him as the obedient wedding attendants we are.
Unfortunately, for most of Christian history, people have thought the end was near, have imagined the Bridegroom's . Believers have looked at the events of their time--the persecution, the anti-Christ choices, the selfish sin--and yelled at the world, "The end is near." Reading the times in light of Revelation, that most bewildering, mysterious book. Reading them literally, reading every nuance of the world and trying to fit it into the puzzles of John's dream. His written-down vision that has more to say about worship in the church today (and every day) than a date of His return trip to Earth.
Let's face it: Paul's metaphor of 'thief in the night' is important. It means we won't know until it's upon us. We will awaken to see Him, and (and this is the key) those of us with lit lamps will recognize Him. Know Him as the One who knows us. Sleeping, working, loving our children, ministering to the world, we will be stopped in our tracks and know Him. And we will respond to our Beloved when He comes, whenever He comes. This is what counts when thinking of the end, that we're living with the Bridegroom in mind and heart, not living with the end in mind. Watching for Him whenever, however He comes--and this means today, in this moment, in our daily lives.
If we're doing this, if we're living with Him in mind, we'll be ready. And we'll be helping those He puts in our lives to be ready as well. Whether tomorrow, next year, or long after we're 'asleep'. I'm more interested in listening to Him today than worrying about the final days. More interested in Him being in my life and--through me, if He wishes--coming to those whom I love who do not yet watch for Him. Maranatha (which, means 'Our Lord comes'), as we used to say. Lord, come soon. Maranatha--Come today!