When we least expect it

IMG_6520It caught my eye as soon as I pulled into the driveway, weary from a homeward drive after a week at the beach. So much time had passed since the cream-colored lycoris bloomed, I didn’t even remember it was there. Yet despite its long absence, in a perfectly-timed reappearance, it provided a cheerful, “Welcome home!” Its return was even sweeter because my late husband, Ray, planted the bulb from which it sprouted over two decades ago. The intriguing inflorescence showed up againIMG_4314 this year, accompanied a week or so later by another long-forgotten specimen in an adjacent flower bed. But I haven’t seen a single red one yet, even though several of them flowered last year. No wonder “surprise lily” is one of lycoris’ common names![1]

Jesus said His promised return will be a surprise. In fact, He said no one knows the day or hour except the Father. (Matthew 24:36) After making this statement, Jesus went on to tell several parables emphasizing the importance of being watchful and ready. First, there’s the tale of the master of the house who would have stayed awake to protect his dwelling from a break-in had he known when the thief would arrive. (Matthew 24:43-44) Then there’s the story contrasting the behavior of faithful and wicked servants, (Matthew 24:45-51) followed by the tale of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish. (Matthew 25:1-14) All three have the same admonition: be prepared! Our Master may return at any moment.

The Old Testament is full of prophecies regarding Jesus’ incarnation, yet 400 years passed from the time of the last one until His appearance – more than enough time for people to forget or doubt. Nonetheless, God preserved the memory of His covenant promises across all those centuries, as exemplified by Simeon and Anna. Both were devout. Both watched hopefully for the coming of the Savior. Enlightened by the Spirit, they exulted over weeks-old Jesus when He was presented at the Temple, knowing the long-awaited One was before them. (Luke 2:22-36)

The wait for Jesus’ return is nearing 2,000 years. I rejoice that I am one of those expectantly waiting because generations before me told their children who in turn told their children so the marvelous message of God’s glorious deeds would not be forgotten. (Psalm 78:1-4) Likewise, we must tell our children and grandchildren of His great love and faithfulness, and instruct them in His commandments. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

When my mom was a little girl, talk of the impending end of the world scared her. In her wisdom, my grandmother told her, “Honey, the end of the world comes for someone every day.” And so it does, sometimes when we least expect it. On a beautiful spring day, my husband went to work, suffered a fatal heart attack and never returned home.[2]

Whether we remain until Jesus returns or He calls us Home before, may we be found ready and watchful, faithfully going about our Father’s business. Though the timing is unknown, His second coming is as certain as His first and our eternal destiny is secure.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

[1] Common names for Lycoris radiata include surprise lily, hurricane lily and spider lily.

[2] Because I’m writing this on September 11th, I want to remember the ones who left home 17 years ago and didn’t return either.

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