When I was pregnant with my first child, almost simultaneously with the sound of the first heartbeat, there was a need to learn everything possible about being pregnant: the requirements for a good diet, sleep, and preparedness to fulfill the needs of the growing life inside me as my body created a space for it. Though I was giddy with delight, I was sober with intent. This was a precious gift, and I must prepare!
I read multiple books and gleaned every detail of pregnancy and childbirth. With each kick I felt it was essential for me to further prepare and I was ripe for the knowledge of it all. I could not get enough information about the upcoming event. The premier authority I read in those days was a book called What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I believe it’s still around in at least it’s 5th edition. It was an invaluable resource along with the wisdom of many wise women around me. And with each subsequent pregnancy, I refreshed and read up on the latest information available to me in order to prepare again. These are the things I had to know.
As the pregnancy progressed and it came near the time of birth, I began to nest. Nesting is a phenomenon that most pregnant women experience at some time during their pregnancy: the desperate need to create a space for your child. This need extends to the crib, the car, the diaper bag stuffed with essentials you will take everywhere for the next year and a half, your parents’ home, your in-laws’ home…but mostly your own home where you will raise that little being in the most safe, secure, cozy but stimulating environment you can produce. Lots of perceived needs, lots of choices. Nesting. It feels right. It prepares us. It extends our love.
Ready or not, that baby is coming! But no matter how prepared you are, YOU will never be perfect. Your love will never be complete. We rely on prayer and God in His mercy to fill in our gaps. There may be birth difficulties, the baby may be colicky, or as children grow, we may find parenting more challenging than we ever realized…but we continue to read up on those developmental challenges and get an intimate knowledge of them so we can prepare for what lies ahead for this precious being. We accept each child for the blessing they are and whom they are, from newborn to adult. I was not a perfect parent. I wince at the times I could not do enough to protect my children or did too much to enable them…but somehow through it all, and with a lot of grace, my children knew that I loved them and loved me back, despite my faults. Their love made me want to be a better parent. Love is a precious gift wrapped in a sparkling, moving tutu of grace.
Even though I am far from those years and our children are all adults, I have continued to nest in my own ways. I have tried to create a warm, cozy home for my family and a respite that is welcoming for guests. Soft candlelight, down comforters and hot cinnamon tea for those cold winter evenings, fragrant gardens, bird sanctuaries and outside barbecues for summer days, and for every season, pleasant words (Prov. 16:24). Is it perfect? No. But we still strive to create an environment that is open and loving and pray daily for our children’s continued needs. And with our first grandchild, welcomed and loved before she ever came, we dream of always adding love to her life, in any way possible.
I also must constantly choose to renovate and recreate my mature nest in another way. I refer to my neshamah, my soul. I realize how much effort and time I have put into preparing throughout my life. But have I prepared my soul? Have I created a fragrant place for Him, a nest in my soul? How have I prepared for the return? How should I prepare? How do I glean the most knowledge or model love so that I am most welcoming to Him? How do I open my heart more? Am I ready? Are my children ready?
I search another Book that is the eternal premier authority on how to prepare and how to live in this life: Titus 2:13 tells us we should make sure we are prepared. That we should be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior’s glory – Jesus Christ…”. As believers we are assured that we have eternal life, but how do we prepare for this gift as we live in this rocky, unpredictable world? These are the things I have to know.
I love Titus because this letter is written by Paul “in hope of life in the Age to come”. Paul states in Titus 2 that we should seek out healthy teaching, be reverent, love each other, be sober-minded and in a pattern of good works. Hum…living soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. How? “Soberly” in the Greek is “sophronos” (Strong’s 4996), from “sozo”, to save and “phren”, the mind. The direction here is to harness my mind (not so easy) and live responsibly, sensibly, and in self-control. I am His own and He has prepared a place for me. I must prepare for Him! His love and the sacrifice of His Son makes me want to extend my love and make ready my soul whilst I can.
Chapter 3 of Titus tells me I must “be ready for every good work, to defame no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all…for we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”.
The Greek word for renewing is anakainosis (Strong’s 342), a combination of “Ana”, again and “Kainos”, new. This suggests a renovation or restoration or transformation of my heart. Making it a fragrant, welcoming place. Romans 12 has the same emphasis as this letter to Titus, stressing that I live in peace and live without judgement of others, overcoming evil with good. Jesus models this in His life’s missive of forgiveness. He models for me just how high, wide, long and deep my love can go. He is my premier authority for living in the world I now live in. And it is also Jesus’ directive in John 13:34: “…you also are to love one another.”
Renewing, refreshing…washing windows, changing slipcovers, parting with junk. I can do that. Will I decorate my life, the reflection of my soul, with righteousness, peace, and joy? Will I refrain from speaking unkindly? Will I live without judging? Will I serve up kindness to a stranger? Will I love someone with different politics than mine? Will I forgive? Be patient? It’s a choice before me every day, and with holy spirit I can try. I can prepare for His coming. He knows of my imperfection and sin and overcomes it with His love. Love is such a precious gift. The least I can do is to spread it around as I make a place for Him.
In Psalm 132:3-5 David speaks of this fervent desire in his heart: of building a space for the ark of the covenant. You can hear the urgency in the tone of the Psalm:
“Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob”.
Are we not His temple? Do you feel the urgency to prepare? To forgive? To really love without judgement? It will take action for me to feather my nest with kindness and make room in my heart to love more each day. I will never be perfect, but I have His grace.
Ephesians 3:19 lets me know that I can become so open and intimate to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. With holy spirit and with love, this fragmentary knowledge I have can be transformed. My nest can be fragrant with the full knowledge of Him.
Ready or not, He will come. Only He will judge. Only I can choose to make ready, to be peaceable, and to love.