I had been dreading the day for a week or so. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and it wasn’t. The whole thing was my idea and it was a good idea, just not an easy one.
My wife Marsha was getting in a car that would take her to a bus that would take her to a plane that would take her to Africa. She would be helping to spread the gospel in villages all across Uganda. I was really proud of her for going but I was also sad. My oldest son took it even harder. It’s weird how watching your kid cry for a legitimate reason is so much harder than watching him cry for something that doesn’t really matter.
My sons are a lot like their dad. Saying goodbye doesn’t come easy.
I hated saying goodbye as a kid when my mom had to go away for another surgery or to see another specialist.
I hated the ten months of saying goodbye to Marsha while we were engaged and she lived 8 hours away.
She would always mail me these things that she called Countdown Calendars. At the end of every day I could mark off another box and be reminded that I was a day closer to seeing her again. The Countdown Calendar was a good reminder that time was headed somewhere. I needed those daily reminders.
My sons are a lot like their dad. They need a Countdown Calendar too.
Right now, on the side of our refrigerator, there’s a Countdown Calendar just low enough for my boys to reach and check off another box each day. It reminds them that things are headed somewhere. The separation will be over soon.
In Revelation 1-3, Jesus speaks to seven churches, some of which are enduring hardcore tribulation. For churches like the one in Smyrna (2:8-11) it’s not just that they miss loved ones. They were about to be missing loved ones who would be thrown into prison and perhaps even killed for their devotion to Jesus Christ.
After giving this warning, Jesus says something unusual to the Smyrnans.
“For ten days you will have tribulation.”
Because this phrase happens in the book of Revelation, the theories are limitless.
The ten days represent the ten pillars on the guy’s house that lived next to the temple in Jerusalem. Each pillar was ten feet tall and the house was built in ten days. So here we see very clear evidence that Jesus will come back on 10/10/10. Wait. 10/10/12. Hang on a minute….
The ten days represent ten of President Obama’s cabinet members thus proving that Obama is in fact the antichrist.
We miss something big if we allow ourselves to get distracted by trying to decode the Bible. The point here is that there will be an end to the tribulation these people are about to face. They will know tribulation very intimately for some time but that time would end. There will be an end to their tribulation.
There would be an eleventh day.
Jesus is saying to his people, “I’m at work here. Things are going to get difficult but I’m still with you. There’s an end to all of this. Hang on to me.”
I am so thankful that my sons have been able to see both parents go halfway around the world to spread the gospel and care for orphans. I pray that their experience will impact them in such a way that when they become men playing a part in international missions and orphan care will be a natural part of their lives.
But there’s another reason why I’m thankful for the tears and heavy hearts my boys have while their mother is away. As they endure the difficulties of missing their mom, at the beginning of every day they get to walk over to the refrigerator and check off another box. In a very real and personal way, they are being taught that time is moving towards something. As difficult as the ten days apart from mom are, by God’s grace the eleventh day is coming.
A while back my oldest son was seeing how long he could hang from the top of a swing set. His buddy had just made it for eight seconds and he wanted to go for nine. I picked him up, let him get his grip and quickly started my watch as I backed away.
My son fell and looked up at me. I could see in his eyes that he knew he didn’t make it. He didn’t. Three seconds short.
After calming him down and giving him a pep talk he was ready to try again.
This time I picked him up but after making sure he was holding on to the top bar good I didn’t back away as far when I started my watch. My mouth was right beside his ear as he hung there by himself.
“Come on man, you got this. Just nine seconds.”
“Just keep hanging.”
“Don’t let go yet.”
“You can do this, man.”
“If you want dinner tonight, you better keep hanging.”
“Hang on, man. You got this.”
He fell to the ground and looked up at me with that same disappointed expression.
I looked at my watch and looked back at him.
He was hyped.
As Christ-followers endure tribulations of varying degrees, we are told to hang on not by a father who simply whispers in our ear with his hands behind his back but by One who as been holding us all along (John 10:28-29).
And we are told to hang on, not for some earthly prize that will soon be forgotten but for the greater prize of dwelling with our Father who will, “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).