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, obviously 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. I was reading today in 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 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.
What did Jesus say about that? Well, in John 17:20 He is praying for His disciples, the twelve guys that were doing life with Him at that moment, but in that prayer, He prays for you and me too. This is two thousand years ago and Jesus is praying for US. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.”
So, apart from just being pretty fantastic, that idea also has a practical application. If He loved me before time ever began, if He prayed for me two thousand years ago, 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 mortgage is due at Branches and I need some help,” God didn’t say, “Man, I didn’t see that coming.” He knew. He knows. And He’s got it all covered. When I start fretting over my kids and take them to Jesus, He says, “Been working on this for a couple of thousand years.” When I am fighting depression, and wonder if anyone cares, He says, “I created you for joy, and I created your joy a hundred thousand years ago.”
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.
Simply Free is one week from today. Prayers have been prayed. Testimonies have been written. Break out sessions have been planned. And God is ready for us; You can still register at the Branches website.