Jesus once told his disciples a prophecy of what the end times would be like. He said there would be wars and rumors of wars and great hardships and tribulations that would be like birth pains. Then, the end would come.

Now that I am on the verge of becoming a first time father, I begin to relate a little better to this story. I used to think, “no big deal, just be patient and then it will happen.” What I had not accounted for, however, is the anxiety of waiting.

Weeks away from the projected birth date, there are “practice contractions”. These false contractions don’t really feel like the real thing and they don’t effectively do anything for delivery. However, they are not comfortable and they make my wife stop what she’s doing until they subside. When I see this, I stop and think, “Is this it? Is it go time?” And I mentally prepare to kick myself into gear and get us to the hospital. In the end, these practice contractions are not the real thing, but they are a sign to those who know to watch that the day will soon be here.

Looking at human history, we can see that the wars and the false wars have not been the end. The plagues and the famines, though devastating, have not ushered in the time to come. Yet, they have all caused those who know to watch to stop and consider, could this be it?

In the next several weeks, I can expect more practice contractions. However, I know that soon, the real ones will start. These will be bigger, more painful, and much more regular. They will no longer suggest that the day is coming, but that day is here. And yet, it will still not be the hour. I will begin running, urgently doing things to make preparations. Though, if the majority of those preparations have not been completed in advance, then what little has been done will be all that could be done. There will be a time when the signs are so obvious, everyone can see what is about to happen. And yet, the thing is not yet happening.

Finally, after everything has been gathered and we have arrived in the room for delivery, still the real contractions will proceed. Bigger. More violent. Harder to bear than ever before. Until…