Doris was pregnant while we lived in a mobile home in Augusta, Georgia. I was the youth pastor there and we lived on the parking lot beside the church. It would get so hot during the day that everything not metal in our little trailer would melt, Doris’s makeup, big fat Christmas candle, the glue that held picture frames and knick-knacks together. We came home each evening to new, strange pools of glob all around the rooms. Those hot days translated into steamy nights, so hot we couldn’t stay in the trailer so we would sneak over to the fellowship hall, crank the AC down and camp out on the carpeted floor. Skinny me and not so skinny, pretty but very pregnant Doris, would try to get comfortable on some blankets and shag carpet. It made for some sleepless times.
It was at those times I started talking to Joshua. We didn’t know he was Joshua. We didn’t even know he was a boy. In fact the doctor told us he thought Doris was carrying a girl. Didn’t matter. I called him Joshua. Doris would say, “What are we going to do if it is a girl?” I said, “Call her Joshuette.”
I would talk to Josh about baseball, explain the infield fly rule and how to hit a curve ball. I read to him classics, like Gulliver’s Travels, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Old Man and The Sea. I would lay the 8-track player on Doris’s belly and play symphony music for him with a little bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Three Dog Night mixed in. But the best thing I did, and Doris did, was fall in love with him. We never saw him, couldn’t have picked him out of a crowd of babies, but we fell madly, foolishly in love with Josh.
We moved to Mt. Vernon, Ohio before he was born. Quit sleeping in the fellowship hall and started trying to stay warm in our first little house. The day he was born was exciting, church people came, the doctor was racing between us and another couple to see who would deliver first. (We won. That guy still owes me $10 bucks.) There was crying and laughing and jumping up and down. It was a neat day. But that wasn’t the day we fell in love with him. No, that happened long before on some ugly, brown, shag carpet in the fellowship hall.
Well, what in the world prompted that rambling you ask? I’m glad you did. In Genesis 41 it all starts to make sense. Poor old Joseph gets waylaid by his brothers. Sold in slavery by traders. Lied about and messed over by Potiphar and his wife. And forgotten about by the cupbearer that he helps in prison. But it’s all part of a plan. God could see this coming long before Joseph put on his fancy coat. Pharaoh was going to have a dream. Egypt was going to have a problem. The whole region was going to have a famine. And Joseph was going to have an idea. God had this whole thing set up long before Joseph was kid number 11. All the trouble and trial he went through was going to turn out really good.
Maybe you’ve gone through some tough stuff and wondered why. 2 Timothy, the 9th verse of the 1st chapter says, “God has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Jesus Christ BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF TIME.” (The caps are mine. That’s me saying WOO-WOO.) Can you believe that? God loved me and gave me His grace and had a plan for me before time even began.
David says in the 139th Psalm, “You knew me in my mother’s womb.” Paul says here, “That’s old news David. He knew us WAY before that.” He knew us and loved us before we were born, before our parents were born, before Adam and Eve were….well, you get the point. Isn’t it overwhelming to think that God loved me and you before He flung the first star into the sky or made the first fish swim in the sea? He loved us before time ever began.
So, apart from just being pretty fantastic, that idea also has a practical application. If He loved me way back then, and if He wants “all things to work together for the good,” then whatever it is I am facing, He has had figured out for a pretty long time. When I prayed this morning and said, “God, the car broke down and I need some help, Doris’s dad is sick. What are we going to do? The Titans need some help in the secondary.” God didn’t say, “Man, I didn’t see that coming.” He knew. He knows. And He’s got it all covered.
When we brought Josh home from the hospital his room was ready. He had a special blanket laid out. We had bottles in the fridge and diapers in the drawers (not enough, but we did have diapers.) We loved him before he was born and we had everything in place. Listen, God has loved you for a million years, maybe more. Don’t you think He’s got the next few days taken care of? Or the next few weeks? Or years? Relax. You are deeply, amazingly loved by the God of the Universe and have been for a very long time. Put on some Creedence, camp out on some shag carpet and think about that.
Read Genesis 41, Psalm 41 and Acts 17. (Tomorrow will be a good day to add an extra chapter in Acts so we will read 18 and 19.) Thank you for all the kind words and responses. We will try “Reconciliation” for Lent.