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What’s Next Papa?

(For Grandpa. Your joy as you looked forward to the end remains in my heart even today. HBS – died 1979 – I still miss celebrating my birthday with you.)

So many times over the years I’ve wondered, what’s next. When I was very small I would wonder what could happen next. When would we get to grandma and grandpa’s house? Are we there yet? This question punctuated every trip we took. Even today I do spend time asking God, what’s next?

In Romans, Paul addresses this need of ours to ask, “What’s next?” He compares our waiting to the waiting of a pregnant woman. Before I was pregnant I thought that meant that we waited the 9 months and had a baby. I was wrong.

When I was pregnant I learned that I wasn’t going to be pregnant for 9 months, oh, maybe like a calendar, but the doctors and nurses all referred to deadlines as 4-week months. It is a 40-week gestation period. Therefore, there are 10 months. Fortunately, the first month went by the quickest. I didn’t know I was pregnant.

Next there are the seemingly endless months until the morning sickness and fatigue go away. I was usually well into the 5th month before that happened. And there are the joyful things that occurred like feeling the baby move and seeing the first picture, the ultrasound. But all too soon these exciting things are replaced with the baby pressing on the bladder and the lungs making it difficult to breathe or stray too far from a bathroom.

For one of my children I thought she had dropped early and would be born early. Such excitement. Except, no. Not really. I just basically added another 4 weeks of watchful waiting to the end of the pregnancy.

The end of the pregnancy finally arrives. It is filled with signs. Everyone is happy to see the signs and call it progress. Everyone was happy but me. I thought the end would just happen. I mean, now. Why not now? With every sign I began to sigh. Not another one! What does the sign mean if I still don’t have a baby?

Finally all the signs ended with a birth. I had learned some lessons about waiting and my impatience. I learned that I get tired of waiting and I have trouble staying focused.

God knows this and he compares my impatience and trouble focusing with waiting for his coming and the final resurrection. So he gives me patience through His spirit. He surrounds me with his joy and uses his love to refocus my outlook. He refreshes me when I grow tired of waiting. He helps me live my life not through my own strength, which is faulty but through his strength, which is mighty.

He knows me better than I know myself. He keeps me in his presence, even in spite of my “help”. He works within me to work his good pleasure and he works everything according to his plan and his timetable.

I may not understand why I don’t have a job at this moment in time. I may not understand why I am to do certain activities or why I feel blocked from pursuing other activities. But he knows. I don’t know what tomorrow may bring but I know who holds my tomorrows. He holds my hand.

Here is the first verse and chorus from my grandpa’s favorite hymn.

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill

I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For it’s skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

Romans 8:15-28 (portions) This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.

The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.

The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

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