On the Sunday I returned to work after two weeks of paternity leave, I made the comment that, ‘It’s nice to be back to normal, or at least as normal as life is going to be for the next 21 years.’ An elderly gentleman leaving church that morning shook my hand warmly and said with a knowing smile, ‘It lasts a lot longer than 21 years!’ The truth is I don’t think anything can prepare you for the bombshell of parenthood; not really. You may have got the nursery ready, bought the pram, been to the classes and read the books, but the truth is most of us feel hopelessly out of our depth as we come to terms with the immense changes that the joyful entrance of a new life brings. In an article I read, somebody described parenthood as ‘welcoming a stranger’ into your home and heart. Furthermore, it’s a lifelong commitment.
Yesterday we discovered that when Paul and his team visited Thessalonica they were ‘successful’. But this success was not measured by numbers or anything like that. It had to do with character. As we saw: a.) they refused to be intimidated, and b.) they worked with integrity. Here’s a third thing in today’s passage: c.) they loved with intensity. Like Jesus, they laid aside their rights (6b, 9): ‘’Day and night we worked so that our preaching of the Gospel to you might not cost you a penny.’’ J.B. Phillips. Like Jesus, they served. They thought of others before themselves (see Philippians 2:1-11). Like Jesus, they gave their lives; they laid them down (see Mark 10:45). ‘’Our attitude among you was one of tenderness, rather like that of a devoted nurse among her babies.’’ J.B. Phillips. A nursing mother imparts her own life to the child. That baby is in her arms and next to her heart. She keeps him close. Also, like Jesus, they endured hardship (9a). I was talking with an older brother in the wonderful family of God recently. As we drank coffee and chatted about many varied things, he expressed to me a conviction (and he did not exempt himself from these comments) that the majority in the church are far too comfortable.
It’s interesting to note that both feminine (7) and masculine (11) characteristics were combined in their spiritual parenting. This, I believe, is the sort of nurturing that is most likely to bring up spiritual children with the family likeness, but it costs in terms of time and effort, whilst being deeply rewarding. Are we prepared for it? Are we willing for the personal inconvenience and disruption of our plans? Are we prepared to be put out; to welcome the stranger? More than courses and programmes (which admittedly have their place), we need Christian people who are willing to share their lives (and homes) with new converts. And bringing up baby may last a lot longer than 21 years!
Rob Parsons spoke about the significant role played in his life by an older man who was not a preacher as such, but he took Rob under his wing when he was younger. He said something like this: ‘’Every week i went round to his house, and we played table tennis, ate chips out of paper, and he taught me the Bible as best he could.’’ One day in later years Rob was able to say to him, ‘’Today I am speaking to large crowds in great venues, and it’s because of you.’’
Prayer: Lord I thank you for those who have poured time and effort into me. Help me to also invest in others.
Thought: ‘’What is it you are doing with the singular gift of your life?’’