I am what my mother calls a “belt-and-suspenders”
person. By that, I mean someone who,
when wanting to secure their pants, doesn’t trust either a belt or suspenders
alone, but uses both, just to make sure.
It is not enough to have a “plan A,” I also like to have a “plan B” and
even a “plan C,” just in case. I’m not
the only one of my kind out there—you others know who you are!
What this means is that as I
have been planning for my trip to India, now just one week away, I have been
making multiple lists and checking them twice; I have emailed and re-emailed [“remailed”?]
my hotels, making sure that they have a record of my booking and also that
transportation has been arranged from airports.
I have checked my flights, my luggage, my contact information; I have my
water purifier and my anti-diarrhea medication [hard to envision with my ace
digestive system, but again—belt and suspenders]; I have hard copies of my
passport—at this point, I really do think I am about as ready as I can be.
So, perhaps my heightened
state of “readiness” is what made the following bumper sticker catch my
eye: “Jesus is coming. Are you ready?” Now, I have seen this particular bumper
sticker before, and I’m sure you have, too, but, like I said, I think because
of everything that is going on right now it struck me this time in a way it hadn’t
What does that mean,
exactly: “am I ready?” Have I done laundry? Have I eaten all the perishable food in the
fridge and thrown out the rest? Have I
paid my bills? Flossed my teeth? Turned down the heat in the house? Stopped my
Oh, I know—the people who
take that question seriously aren’t talking about any of that. Instead, they want to know whether or not I
am “right with Jesus”: Have I accepted
Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior?
Have I repented of my sin? Have I
cleaned up my life? Am I praying, going
to church, reading the Bible? You see,
you need to be “right with Jesus,” so that when he comes, you will be saved—maybe
even raptured [and those foolish nay-sayers will get theirs—I always feel like that
is implied in this theology, don’t you?]—and isn’t that the point of one’s
faith, after all?
Well, I think not, actually. Instead, I want to counter with another way
of envisioning how to spend one’s time in between Easter and the Kingdom, a way
that has much less to do with self-preservation, and much more to do with the love
of neighbor. It is inspired by the
Jewish concept of tikkun olam,
healing the world, which, in Reformed and Conservative Judaism is used as a
justification and impetus for social action.
In Judaism in general, there is much less emphasis placed on securing
knowledge of [time of/means of/etc.] one’s own salvation, and instead, more
emphasis placed on making the world ready for the Messiah. It’s outwardly focused, instead of inwardly
focused. I like that. It’s a reminder that the gift of our faith in
particular—and the gift of Christ’s life, death and resurrection in general—is not
meant to be guarded as one’s personal possession, but instead, it is meant to
be shared, spent, even wasted for the sake of the neighbor, the sake of the
This whole idea is summed up
really nicely in a Jewish proverb that reads:
you will always assume
person sitting next to you
for some human kindness,
will soon learn to weigh your words and watch your hands.
if he so chooses
to reveal himself
Less looking to the heavens,
and more looking around right here, seeing what needs to be done and being
ready to do it. That’s the kind of
readiness even a belt-and-suspenders person like myself can appreciate.