Tuesday, April 14, 2020


We had a very unsettling experience at our house recently. My husband, who works a swing shift, had just gotten into bed, and I was waking up for the day. In my sleepy-eyed state, I wandered into the living room and looked out our sliding glass doors. It took me a moment to register what I was seeing. There, in the remnants of the overnight condensation, were hand prints. Someone had been in my backyard and looked into my home. I immediately checked all the other doors and windows; everything was locked, and there were no other signs of disturbance. The gate was not tampered with, and nothing appeared disturbed. Still unsure if what I was seeing meant what I thought it did, I asked my husband to come to the living room. We stood there hypothesizing about what else it could be and reviewing the timeline of the night before: what time my husband came home from work, what time he had gotten in bed, and if he had heard anything unusual while he was in the living room unwinding. Though I felt a deep sense of invasion, I thank God that no real harm was done.

Theft is nothing new. In fact, Christ spoke of theft (technically burglary) as a parable regarding his second coming:
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will" (Matthew 24:42-44, NASB).
This is a portion of a larger teaching in Matthew 24-25. When reading scripture, it is important to remember that chapters and verses were added for organization and do not always reflect proper breaks. To read only Matthew 24:42-51, the section titled "Be Ready for His Coming" in my Bible, would be to miss that Jesus' words stem (pun intended) from the previous section in which he uses a fig tree to make a point. As the pastor of my youth would have said, When you see the "therefore" in verse 42, you need to see what it's there for.

Jesus had been speaking about the signs of his return and compares the signs to a fig tree.  When you see the leaves appear on a fig tree, you know that summer is coming.  I love when my fig tree starts leafing. I am reminded that winter will not last forever and that summer is coming.  I understand that you may not know that, but those who are familiar with fig trees know this. I think that is one of the important lessons we should learn here: not everyone will recognize the signs, but Jesus wanted the disciples to be prepared.  Like leaves on a fig tree, there will be signs that point to his return. Signs, however, are not a calendar. They can prepare you, but they do not tell for sure.

My good friend recently gave birth to her third child. Because of previous complications, she had a c-section scheduled.  She knew the time her child would arrive.  Historically, most expectant parents cannot predict when their child will be born. When I was pregnant with my first son, I recall being told to pack my hospital bag earlier than I thought necessary because labor could come at any time. (The idea of labor pains is part of Jesus' teachings here, too.  See Matthew 24:8.) The day my son was born, I woke up and quickly recognized the signs of his coming, but even that close to the event I could not predict when he would be born. In the same way, those who are looking for Christ's second coming will see the signs but will not know exactly when he will come.

I'm not going to lie to you. For several days after I saw those hand prints, I was on high alert. Every shifting shadow in my backyard caught my attention. I checked the locks on doors and windows as night came. I even slept in pajamas that would be suitable for running out of the house in the middle of the night. I thought that was a brilliant decision at first, and then I was concerned that I might be a little too worried.  However, I take comfort in the fact that Jesus thought it was a good idea for me to sleep in a bra.  As he said in the revelation: “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame” (Revelation 16:15, NASB).

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