In many plays, there are understudys who prepare for major roles in case the actor is unable to perform. They have to be completely ready with costumes, lines, and staging. They are the back-up plan. They spend lots of time getting ready for a chance that may never come. They are prepared even though there is very little chance for the actual performance.
Even if we have never had the experience of being an understudy, we often must be prepared for things that do not come to fruition. We prepare for disasters that do not happen. We prepare for possible outcomes of situations. We prepare for events that get canceled at the last minute. We prepare, and we are often frustrated when are preparations were for nothing. Even if the outcome is a relief, we are often frustrated that so much time was seemingly wasted in the preparation.
The time may not have been wasted. The preparation allowed us to not only get things ready, but it allowed us to get ourselves ready in other ways. When we prepare, we are able to emotionally prepare ourselves. Sometimes get excited for the guests that are planning to come. Sometimes we call up our feelings for the loved one who is preparing for possible surgery. Sometimes it is preparing for the new job situation that never comes. Sometimes it is preparing for the hurricane or other disaster that is averted. While these situations can result in various feelings when they do not happen, each of them leads to a little frustration because of the change in plans. We may have other, stronger emotions, but there is still the frustration.
Sometimes that frustration can become so large that we let the frustration guide our decisions. The hurricane never comes, so I’m just not getting ready for it. The Jones’ always say they are coming over, but they cancel at the last minute. I’m not going to bother to plan a meal.
This frustration can also be a part of our spiritual life. After inviting 30 people to church, taking the time to think about what to say and how to say it, the frustration may just be too much. The various community outreach events are frustrating because all of the preparations just don’t seem worth it when only a handful of people show up. We get frustrated because all of our preparations take so much time, effort, and energy, but the results are less than spectacular. This frustration can build up so much that we do not want put any of ourselves into the preparation.
We, as workers for the kingdom of God, do face the frustration of having less-than-spectacular visible results. But, we are not working for results in this world. We are preparing ourselves and others for God’s kingdom. We may be planting seeds of faith, even if the results are not obvious. While the family down the street never accepts our invitation to church, they know we care about them. While the community members may not come to a community event, they do know that our church is giving to the community. The preparation is not just for the particular event, but it is preparation for the kingdom of God. We are working for more than we can see.
Press on to the goal, Paul tells us. Keep being the understudy or worker for the kingdom. You preparation is for God’s kingdom, not just a play.