I was feeling a bit foolish yesterday as I returned an unused rented generator for which I paid over $100 for the privilege of having it sit idly on my deck over the weekend. And I had the same feeling as I was moving unneeded sandbags away from the front of our house where they were placed to hold back floodwaters that never appeared. All my preparations for Hurricane Florence were for naught. The storm, predicted to be the worst our area of the state had ever seen, spared us and unleashed its wrath elsewhere.
As I sat down to work on my computer later, what came up on the screen was a note from my wife thanking me for my diligent preparations last week. She knew I felt like it had been a waste of time and money, but she reminded me of the many to our east who had not taken the warnings seriously and now were full of regret. Even if I thought now the preparations were unnecessary, she wrote, she appreciated my diligence in being ready because it showed how concerned I was for her and protecting our home. And we could have just as well needed them all if the storm had behaved just slightly differently. We were ready, and she was so thankful I made certain of that.
Preparations for potential cataclysmic events are always tricky. First, precise predictions are elusive. Californians for over a century have been warned to prepare for the earthquake referred to as “the big one.” They are still waiting. After the 9/11 attacks and the Great Recession of 2009, “preppers” began to get our attention as they built underground shelters and stocked their shelves with enough canned and dried food to last a year or more. They haven’t needed to use them yet. And many a hurricane have been forecast to be the worst ever, with emergency supplies flying off store shelves, and then having little of the impact that was foretold.
As a result, there is a fear of being seen as foolish and overdramatic in making advanced preparations for an event that may never happen. Think of Noah (Genesis 6-7) being asked to prepare a humongous boat in the middle of a desert. Some say his preparations took as long as 75 years. I wonder if, as the years passed, he struggled with the thought of being a fool and putting down his tools.
And then there is the Apostle Peter’s second letter which indicates people were mocking the Christians for their belief that Jesus was returning soon, and the earth would be destroyed. Peter urged them to ignore the scoffers and continue preparing themselves for the Lord’s return regardless of how foolish they might appear in the eyes of others.
Preparations, or the lack thereof, require faith in either what we have been told or in our own knowledge and wisdom. We either have faith in the weather forecasters or we trust in our experience, intuition, or luck. Often it works out and reinforces our faith, but sometimes it doesn’t. As one elderly man, who had been through many hurricanes before and never evacuated, said from his rescue boat in eastern North Carolina, “I never thought it could ever be this bad.” He did not adequately prepare, and his faith was deeply shaken.
Apart from the story of Noah and Peter’s warnings, preparation is a big theme in the Scriptures, with the most notable being Matthew 25. It follows Jesus’ description of the end times in Chapter 24. He tells three parables which all deal with spiritual preparedness. The first is about the ten virgins and their oil lamps. Five made sure they had enough oil for their lamps; five did not. The second involves men being given money by their master to invest and how much return they earned on it. One merely buried it so he wouldn’t lose it. The third parable, and the most well-known, is the parable of the sheep and the goats. It tells what happens on Judgment Day, when people are judged by what they have done in their lives and when there are no more opportunities to change things.
The warnings are clear and from a reliable Source that can be trusted. GET READY! BE PREPARED TO MEET YOUR CREATOR AND JUDGE! But so many still disregard the warnings, and like the scoffers in Peter’s day, don’t quite believe things are that urgent, or even are going to take place.
Spiritual preparation is a lifelong endeavor. That is why I have become such an advocate for parents learning how to disciple their children. I have had too many experiences with the frantic calls or emails from parents just days before their children arrive on campus asking our ministry staff to reach out to their child when they arrive. Based on my experience, I want to scream, “IT’S TOO LATE!” Of course, I don’t respond that way. I dutifully reply that we will make the attempt, but I know that 99 percent of the time, attempts under such circumstances aren’t successful. The lack of spiritual preparation of young people is the main reason a significant majority abandon their faith after high school.
And I strongly believe the fear of appearing foolish is a part of this. While most parents are focused on their kids’ doing everything possible to put them in positions of getting college scholarships, parents focused on making sure their children are spiritually prepared for college and life are at risk of ridicule because their priorities are so at odds with the culture at-large and even within the church culture. But the label of fool they must be willing to accept! And I, too, as one sounding the alarm.
As my wife reminded me, being prepared for what might come is a wise thing. I would add, being prepared for what we know is coming is not only wise, but essential. It is never too early to start.
© Jim Musser 2018