Always Be Prepared
This post originally appeared on the travelingsaints blog, a blog about faith, life, and the journey toward holiness.
The Girl Scout motto is “Be prepared.” In the 1947 Girl Scout Handbook, the motto was explained this way: “A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.”
I’ve always looked back on my scouting days with some nostalgia and remembered campfires, fishing, silly songs, cooking in a dutch oven, and that one time I used a real tourniquet on my friend Amy because I didn’t know we were supposed to just pretend (she’s fine now).
The one thing that has always stuck with me is the phrase “be prepared.” Any time I have a dream where it’s the first day of school and I forgot my locker combination or it’s the last day of school and I forgot to study for any of my finals, I remind myself that this is just my brain’s way of telling me to be prepared, pay attention, do the prep work.
So many of my life’s rituals and routines are a way of helping me to be prepared. I have packing lists so I’m prepared for trips. I set up bottles, do a load of dishes, and lay out clean clothing so I’m prepared for the next day and my mornings are less hectic. I have a living will in place so I’m prepared for anything. Some of the things I prepare for are joyful occasions and some things are for more serious ones. When I start worrying about something coming up, it’s almost always because I don’t feel prepared!
One of my favorite worship artists and speakers is Kim Walker-Smith. There’s a phrase she repeats often in her talks, “One day I will live in the fruit of this moment.” (You can check out one of her talks here: Kim Walker-Smith testimony) She’s talking about how surrendering herself to worship when she was just a girl in a youth group and putting the legwork in with prayer and scripture have helped her live in the fruit of sold-out stadium tours. When she needs to be present and worshipping God in front of 20,000 people, she is grateful she spent the time years and years before reminding herself of her “why”: glorifying the name of Jesus.
I often repeat that phrase “one day I will live in the fruit of this moment” when things are hard, answers don’t come easily, and I’m in the middle of confusion and despair. When I take a moment to raise my hands in worship in my room before I face the day or read a verse of scripture before I surrender myself to not-always-restful sleep, I am sowing into the future. I am making a deposit into an account that I can draw on in the future.
Jesus did the same thing for us when He gave us Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:14 it describes Holy Spirit as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” He placed God’s Spirit in us so we can always draw from that Fount and receive fresh faith and fresh joy when we need it. Jesus prepared us for our present and our future.
When I dig deeper into scripture I see that God repeats over and over “be prepared,” “be alert,” “be watchful.” I used to read parables like that and think that I was being watchful for the end of days, I was being watchful for judgment, I was being watchful so that my image of Santa/Jesus wouldn’t put me on the naughty list, I was being watchful for the devil who was so fearsome and powerful. I felt a lot of shame that I wasn’t doing enough or wasn’t pure enough or righteous enough. I would sort of skip over those passages because they made me so uncomfortable. I would think, “How can I do this? I’m always unprepared! I’ll never measure up!”
Right now I’m getting ready for the holiday season and the start of a new church year, preparing things, making my home ready, putting myself in a position to create space for Holy Spirit to move in my work and in my days. I want to set things up so anyone who comes in my home can feel heard, acknowledged, loved, and valued without having to worry about my house being a disaster. I’m “setting up the store” so when the clearance sale comes, I can avoid the chaos. I’m not preparing for anything bad or for the worst case scenario. I’m preparing a place for good things to happen, for blessings to happen, for little mercies and miracles to grow.
This week I started thinking about being prepared, about being prepared for God’s blessings, about creating space for heaven to spill out on to earth. Preparing my heart and preparing things practically so when opportunities came up I could jump on them. I’m not talking about professional opportunities, but opportunities for blessing or for things God asked me to do.
When God says again and again throughout scripture, “Be prepared,” I think He is pointing me in that direction. If we look at an often difficult book like Leviticus, we can see how Abba was preparing Israel for Christ in a really concrete way. And not just preparing for a future Messiah, but preparing for God’s glory that came to them on a regular basis. For the day-to-day glory they could participate in.
Leviticus is one of my favorite books in scripture because it shows that God leaves nothing out, nothing is beyond His reach.
I think all the animal sacrifices and atonements were there so that when people entered the temple they felt ready, they had left everything at the door and were all set to encounter their God. They were no longer encumbered by their most valued possessions and could focus.
Leviticus also goes into incredible detail about getting ready for the Sabbath and getting ready for Passover. For the Jews then and observant Jews today, Thursdays and Fridays until sundown and the days leading up to Passover are a flurry of activity. I see the Sabbath as kind of a weekly warm-up for Passover. Every last bit of work has to be done so that not even a flame needs to be lit on the Sabbath. Getting rid of anything with leavening before Passover helps people get into a completely different mindset come sundown that first night. These practical things help give space for spiritual things.
In my own life, I spend a lot of time on road trips. Those require preparation, a flurry of getting things ready (cars, food, dog, baby, husband, music) right before I head out. When my husband calls to tell me he’s five minutes away and wants everything to be ready to pack into the car so we can head out, I rush to get things done. It’s not because he’s threatening or warning or cautioning me. It’s because he’s excited. He can’t wait for the trip to start. He wants us to have a good time.
In some ways, I think that is what Jesus is saying when He asks us to be prepared. We’re not preparing for the worst case scenario. He wants us to prepare for the best case scenario!
When we prepare for the Sabbath, we are preparing for an encounter with the living God. When we prepare for church by confessing our sins or spending time with God Monday through Saturday, we are really preparing to see Jesus face to face. And when we do, it’s not a face of judgment or shame. It’s not condemning us for not being prepared enough, He’s really saying, “Yes! You’re here! Everything is ready! Let’s get started!”
It’s easy to get caught up in the warnings in Scripture and to think we or the people around us or even the whole world are just steps away from destruction because we aren’t ready and we haven’t made way for God. We can focus on John the Baptist’s entreaties to repent or else. We can look at the beginning of Isaiah and think to ourselves, “Wow. I don’t want those terrible things to happen to me. I better be prepared.” We can look at Peter saying that the devil is prowling around like a lion and prepare out of fear. We know destruction is coming to the enemy and we just want to get the heck out of the way.
But what if we thought of it a little differently? What if John the Baptist was leaping for joy like he did as a baby? What if he was telling everyone, “Yes! He’s here! Woohoo! Get ready!”? What if the prophets were excited and anxious for history to unfold the same way we get before a road trip or a concert we’ve been waiting for? “Get your house in order because this is going to be GREAT!” And what if Peter was reminding us to be prepared so we wouldn’t miss Christ? What if he was saying, “Flee from evil so you can really focus on Christ! He’s right here! Look! Isn’t this the BEST?”
I want to be prepared in my life so I am ready for anything: a new year, a vacation, an emergency requiring a tourniquet. I also want to be prepared in my life for blessings that Abba just throws my way. I want to know I’m prepared to make the most of those moments when I can see and feel His Presence so clearly. I want to enjoy the fruit of all of that getting ready. Not just in eternity but here and now, today.
Holy Spirit is a deposit in my heart and I want to cash in, right now, in this moment, and for every moment forever more. I want all the blessings and all the beauty of heaven to be present today. I want to be ready for God because He is worthy, He is perfect, and He wants to be with me.
(If you have copyright information for the above Kim Walker-Smith images, please reach out. I’d love to give you credit!)