I loved being a Girl Scout. Our motto was: “Be prepared.” This meant we were always to be mentally and bodily ready to face difficulties or even danger by knowing what to do and when to do it.
In an effort to get properly prepared, our leaders encouraged us to earn badges to prove how prepared we actually were. They taught us to make a fire, understand food nutrition, know about leadership, learn water safety, and much more.
As we earned our badges, we accumulated knowledge, and in order to apply it, our leaders role-played with us, testing our responses to different hypotheticals. They figured if we practiced enough, when a moment of need arose, we’d automatically jump in to help in appropriate ways.
Role-playing is a practical way to learn, and most of us do it eagerly. For example, before a couple gets married, they often attend counseling together. The pastor or teacher describes marriage moments they’re bound to encounter and asks how each would respond. The resulting discussions point out potential problems.
Nate and I did plenty of role-playing as we prepared for marriage: “What if we don’t have children? What if we do? If we move away from family, how will we handle that?” We worked to trouble-shoot, hoping we wouldn’t have too many bumps in the adjustment road, once we were married. It was all part of getting prepared.
At the other end of our marriage, as empty nesters heading toward retirement, we role-played once again: “When is it best to retire? Then what? And should we move? If so, what’ll happen when our children and grandchildren visit? And will our money last through old age? Should we travel before we get too old?” We wanted to be prepared.
The thing we didn’t role-play was an “early” death for one of us. “What will your/my life look like, if you/I should die? How can we prepare for that?” Other than life insurance, we hadn’t even discussed it.
Subsequently, when we learned of Nate’s cancer, we huffed and puffed trying to prepare, but death caught up to us before we were ready. When it was all over and I was alone, I stood in my living room on a wintry night and thought, “Now what? I’m completely unprepared for this.”
But God, who’s always ready for everything, had a good answer. “Since you couldn’t prepare for what was coming next, I did it for you.”
And here’s what he’d prepared:
- my grieving process
- this blog to tend
- a book to write
- Birgitta and her baby to help
In hindsight I can see he had me ready, so I’m not going to worry about what numbers 5 or 6 will be. And if I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s that living within God’s preparedness is a better place to be than role-playing the unknown, all by myself.
“I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)