Lessons from an Expectant Dad
There is lots to be learned when expecting a baby, and not just how to change a diaper.
Early in March this year, my wife Abi and I found out we were expecting a baby. The process we have been on since then has been mixed with a number of emotions and feelings, ranging from joy and excitement right through to fear - however, through all of this, God has been speaking to us.
Back in 2004, Abi was journaling and felt God say that we would conceive on her 28th birthday. When God speaks a promise into our lives, there is often a process we go through to prepare us for the fullness of that promise.
Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins
We decided to go through a 'detox' before trying for a baby. This involved a lot more vitamins than I thought even existed in the world. Round ones, long ones, square ones. Some were tiny, some were like bullets!
"There was so much preparation going on"
For my 'role', this wasn't an overly important exercise, but for Abi, going through this detox meant she was getting her body into the best possible health to provide our baby with a safe environment to grow. There were things that should have been in the body that weren't and things that shouldn't have been in the body that were - all of this just through the course of 'normal' life.
There was so much preparation going on even though the baby wasn't even conceived yet. When God speaks a promise into our lives, we can cultivate an environment where that promise can grow and develop. In the case of Mary, the promise that God spoke over her didn't require anything other than willingness and an open heart. However, her role was then to 'nurture' this promise to full term, both figuratively and literally. Interestingly, the word that is translated into 'overshadow' when the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, resulting in the conception of Jesus, is the same word used to describe the Holy Spirit falling at Pentecost - which birthed a new chapter in the history of Christ's church.
What are the 'toxins' in your spiritual life that could affect the health of whatever God is birthing in you? 2 Corinthians 7:1 encourages us to “...purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit...” (NIV)
The scary thing is that it would have been entirely possible to conceive a baby without going through this detox - and the chances are that the baby would have been perfectly healthy. However, with something as precious as this, we want to make every effort to provide a safe environment for this baby to grow. In the same way, God can birth something in you that your 'toxins' may not affect, but how much better to be on that journey of being loved back to life and having our 'toxins' dealt with.
'I'm old before my time'
One of the hardest changes for me was saying goodbye to the many happy years of small, fast, brightly coloured cars. I spent five years working for Ford motor company in my early twenties. At the time, lots of my friends were driving old, beat up cars and there I was, cruising around town in the latest convertible or sports car. It was the one perk of the job - knowing that your car would always be brand new, squeaky clean and full of fuel was such a blessing. Looking back now, I fondly remember warm Friday afternoons when the showroom was quiet. I would spend hours polishing my latest company car, making sure it looked great for the weekend.
When we decided we were going to start a family, there was no way I could have a small car anymore, much less one that was built for speed or good looks. No, form went out of the window in favour of function. It happened so suddenly. We looked at a few different cars and before I knew it, we'd bought an Estate car!
"just think how many of the LADS I can fit in here on the way to the game"
I tried to justify it to myself - 'it's great for fitting lots of MAN things in it' - 'just think how many of the LADS I can fit in here on the way to the game' - but no matter how I tried to justify it, it was a sensible car. Even worse than that, gone was the quick-shift manual gearbox in favour of the much more restrained automatic gearbox. Gone were the bright primary 'get out of my way' colours in favour of a very non-de-script gun-metal grey. Features like an amazing sound system and massive alloy wheels made way for cruise control and 'comfortable seats.'
One day I was driving down the A40 into London, coming home from visiting my parents, when it hit me. There I was, cruising along in the middle lane, well under the speed limit with the cruise control on, in my gun-metal grey, diesel, automatic estate car listening to TALK RADIO! I had made the transition to middle age without even noticing. No fanfare, no fly-by from the Red Arrows recognising my many years of faithful service to 'young adultdom' - it just happened.
Having said all of that, I love our new car. It's so useful. When we go to conferences, we can fit all of the instruments and our bags in. Journeys are so comfortable. It's so fuel efficient and easy to keep clean. The fact is, with the baby on the way, we had to make some sacrifices and prudent choices. A small, compact sports car just won't cut it when we have to fit four bags, ready-made meals and extra outfits in the car - and that's just for my wife Abi, let alone the things for the baby!!
"What are the things you're holding on to?"
Sometimes, what God is calling us to requires certain sacrifices to be made. Sometimes, to pick up something new, we have to let go of something we're already carrying. In Luke 5, Jesus calls the first disciples, telling them they'll be catching men instead of fish, straight after the record catch they'd just made. When God speaks a promise over our lives, some things may have to be laid down in order to step into the fullness of what He has for us.
What are the things you're holding on to that are holding you back or stopping you from stepping in to what God has for you? Sometimes, the 'good' is the enemy of the 'best'. Abi and I have found time and time again that when he asks us to sacrifice something for His purposes, it's because He has a good plan for us and loves us. We know that if we seek His Kingdom [link: expanding your kingdom] first, then everything else will be added to us (Luke 12:31) - we don't need to strive and worry about provision or peace, He has it covered.
In the case of our car, the sacrifice is absolutely worth it for what we are going to gain. There is a promise growing inside of Abi that means some things have to change - some things have to go, to make room for what is to come. Whatever happens, I trust my Heavenly Daddy - His plan is ALWAYS better than mine.
'You might as well get used to it'
Since we found out we were having a baby, I've noticed this phrase has been thrown around a lot, by Abi and also both of my sisters, each the proud mother of two. I can remember spending time with all of the family in recent years where the only expectation placed on me regarding babies and children was to keep them entertained. However, since my family found out we were expecting, a sudden change has occurred whereby any and all baby related activities are palmed my way, accompanied by the phrase 'you might as well get used to it'
By everything, I mean EVERY. THING. Bath-time, toilet-time, meal-time, play-time, dress-time, undress-time and watching-them-sleep time. Any duty that can be done. Including an alarmingly large amount of dirty diapers that would make even the most battle-hardened veteran parents gag. All of this under the banner of 'you might as well get used to it.'
"you might as well get used to getting up in the middle of the night."
Other duties have been handed to me under this pseudo-reason. A few weeks back, Abi woke me in the middle of the night asking for a slice of bread - accompanied with, yes, you guessed it - 'you might as well get used to getting up in the middle of the night.' It's a joy and honour to serve my wife - even at 2am. So up I got out of bed. I put my dressing gown on. I put my slippers on. I went downstairs. I turned on the kitchen light. I found the bread. I cut the bread. I put the bread back. I turned the kitchen light off. I climbed back up the stairs with said piece of bread. I took my slippers off. I took my dressing gown off. I got back into bed. I woke my now sleeping wife and said "here's your bread sweetheart." - she opened her bleary eyes, took one look at the bread, handed it back to me and said "with butter..."
I didn't mind really - honestly. Like I said, it's an honour to serve her. I know that she definitely has the harder job carrying our child and giving birth. I'll take the early morning runs to the kitchen over giving birth any day.
What's the point? The point is that I'm learning to live like I'm IN the promise already. These early-morning bread runs and dirty nappies are equipping me with the skills I will need and are forming good character within me. If I can learn to change the nappies now, I'll be a pro by the time baby Allsop arrives. Just like King David. He'd already learnt to deal with the bears and lions so that when he came face to face with Goliath, he had a track record. He'd established character and capabilities to see him through the challenges that were the doorway to his destiny.
What are the things that are in your hand that you can be faithful with so that God can honour what's in your heart?In what ways can you start living like you're already IN the promise that will serve you well when you get there? Many years ago, someone had a picture for Abi and I whilst we were in a difficult time. We were in a church that was hungry for more of the Spirit, but didn't know how to get there. We felt dry spiritually and we were tired after serving for many years without feeling like we were receiving. In the picture, someone saw us trying to run on a loose gravel road. If you've ever tried running on loose gravel, or very soft sand, it's hard work. Your foot sinks as you plant it; you have to expend a lot more energy to get anywhere.
In this picture, there was a real sense of frustration as not only were we trying to run on the gravel road, but we could also see, way off in the distance, a beautifully smooth concrete road - straight, level and smooth. The person who had the picture said that he felt that God was allowing us to learn to 'run' on the loose gravel, so that when we finally hit the concrete, it would be effortless and we would be able to speed along. It was difficult to hear, but we took a lot of comfort from that picture. We knew that if we could learn to live in the dry place and cultivate a deep hunger and desire for the Lord when others around us weren't - that when we found ourselves in an environment with people who were running after God, where the spirit had free-reign, we would be able to fly.
"everything we were doing to invest in the promise is now being realised"
Three years later, we found ourselves bumping into Catch The Fire - going on an ILSoM , getting completely pulled apart and lovingly put back together by a loving God and propelled into a wild journey that has seen us pastoring at Catch The Fire London and being immersed into an environment where we have been loved back to life and grown immensely.
Looking back now, we can see how everything we were doing to invest in the promise is now being realised. We can see how God had prepared us for our lives being completely changed by building our hunger and learning to cultivate a culture where we recognise our total need of Him. We know that if we hadn't learnt to run on that gravel road back then, we wouldn't be stepping into the fullness of what He has for us now.