“I charge you therefore before God and Messiah Yeshua, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
Our firstborn daughter is about to be inducted into the Israeli army.
It is surreal to think that we have come so quickly to this stage of her life – of our lives. It feels like just yesterday that I myself was anxiously, even ignorantly, joining the IDF as a fresh immigrant. Granted, things were done quite differently then. Today, many of her interactions in the induction process have been digital. There is an app. There is a website. She has had online forms to fill out and Zoom interviews to hurdle. In my day, we had snail mail and huge paper forms to fill out. And a lot of other unknown things. The process has become more streamlined in the almost 30 years since I served in the army. Regardless, the core experience is the same.
While she knows so much more than I did, and has the advantages of being fluent and native, there is still no way for her to be completely ready for everything she will face in this new season of her life. In the next few weeks, we will buy supplies and prepare her “duffle bag” for basic training. Somehow that meagre bag will attempt to hold all she will need for those auspicious first days and weeks. It reminds me of the first important bag we used to prepare for her…a diaper bag.
As first-time parents, we wanted to feel confident, wanted to cover all our bases and BE READY for every possible scenario. Hence, every time we went anywhere, we took this huge, fully equipped diaper bag with us. It had about a million pockets, and it held EVERYTHING. Yet, even with our good intentions, there were still many times when we somehow didn’t have what we needed. Sometimes we had used the last diaper or she had already dirtied all three changes of clothes we had brought that day. We became more flexible and less “panicky” about expecting the unexpected.
As we matured and had more children, that huge diaper bag shrank dramatically. When our last baby came along, we would often take just one or two diapers and a small pack of wipes. With time, and even with fewer supplies, we felt more ready and did not need the backup safety of an every-eventuality diaper bag.
The Bible talks a lot about seasons. It is one of the most obvious elements of nature – the cyclical pattern of the weather and of the year. Watching the seasons and knowing the seasons can bring us a great deal of security. But in Acts 1:7 we read, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” It goes without saying that we are now living in times and in a season which is unlike any before it. Life is confusing and complicated and uncertain. Suddenly, we are thrust into new realities that we probably were not prepared for, just like parents having their first baby, or an army inductee just before basic training – realities for which we probably could not have ever fully prepared.
Today we held a very intimate funeral for an elderly woman from our congregation. We have not had a corporate congregational meeting for almost a year, and we are currently in another national lockdown. These two circumstances created an unusual atmosphere for a funeral – joy and excitement to see one another – and emphasized to all of us the sweetness of face-to-face fellowship. Sophia was 94 when she died. Orphaned at age 14, she was a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who had guarded belief in God in the depths of her heart for decades as she served in professional capacities in the Soviet Union as a loyal Communist. Nine years ago she prayed a salvation prayer with her daughter, a long-time member of our congregation. She made Aliyah to her Israeli “homeland” where she was blessed to live out her final years – until a few days ago when she told her daughter, grandson and son-in-law that she was “going to sleep, not to wake her!” And indeed she fell asleep and passed into the arms of her Heavenly Father. Her grandson testified at the funeral that despite her life circumstances, she always held on to optimism and did her best to meet evil with good all the days of her life.
We will not soon forget Sofia Bleicher, who met her Maker gladly with no suitcase, no duffel bag, no kit bag, and no diaper bag. We, on the other hand, can learn from her example. She literally took a train into the unknown and met seasons in her life that could never have been anticipated.
None of us can fully know the season we are stepping into. From day to day, we walk into the unknown. BUT – today is the day. Now is the time. The hour is upon us. I believe that we need not be surprised by anything. That we need to have our spiritual “diaper bags” ready and our spiritual “new-recruit-duffle-bags” packed. What must be in those bags? Character traits and spiritual tools that will enable us to get through the unknown challenges that await us. Some of those tools must be: humility, forgiveness, long-suffering, a heart of service, and of course – faith, hope, and love.
“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand;” (Psalm 31:14-15)