Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
-Jesus (Matthew 24:8, NASB)
Decathexis is “the process of dis-investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.” Or perhaps a previous way of life.
Prequel: “.”a work (such as a novel or a play) whose story precedes that of an earlier work.” An earlier stage of events.
In DUE Time
From the vantage point of having given birth on two occasions, I continue to appreciate–and learn from–Jesus’ analogy of childbirth to events related to the “end times” prophecies.
I believe there is perhaps more to be gleaned from this analogy than can be learned from the pulpits and from theologians because by tradition they are most often men and they cannot physically know of pregnancy and childbirth events.
There is often added nuance to comprehending something when one actually experiences it–not just studies, reads, or hears about it. Not that studying, reading, and/or hearing about it cannot get the main ideas across.
In the case of Jesus’ childbirth analogy, I believe there is another* insight to add to the comparison that a mother can explain a bit better. This insight focuses on the last several weeks of pregnancy where many mothers experience what is commonly known as “nesting.”
In the nesting period, a mother takes greater interest in preparing for the arrival of her soon-to-be born baby. Her cleaning and organizing energies are diverted more to what will be needed to accommodate the arrival of a new family member and she may decathex (in a word, withdraw) physically, mentally, and/or emotionally, a bit, from other activities.
She may appear to others to be in fact preoccupied with this preparation and even disconnected somewhat from other responsibilities. Not all mothers experience this, of course, and it can occur at any time during the first nine months, in utero, of a baby’s life.
The mother is glad for this time of preparation for she is anxious to have the baby born, but if she is aware of what is happening she might also experience some additional anxiety knowing that the onset of birth pangs are even closer. This might cause her to labor a little more intensely at the preparations.
Applying the period of decathexis to what happens spiritually before end times events intensify I think might help explain the exciting but also stressful times we are in as believers anticipating the Lord’s return, specifically, believers who subscribe to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine. Note: this doctrine is controversial, as the definition above reveals. Nevertheless, some doctrine of the return of Jesus Christ to earth is present in some manner in all denominations though the logistics vary.
But Would “Spiritual Decathexing” Mean Abandoning The Great Commission?
I immediately “hear” this concern, however, specifically regarding the Pre-Trib Rapture view.
Because, as noted, expectant mothers decathexing from some normal activities of daily life appear to downplay, de-prioritize, even abandon other life responsibilities to some degree, some Christians worry that Pre-Tribbers, as we are known, might just now be neglecting spiritual priorities.
The specific “worriers” are those who might think we might de-prioritize preaching, teaching, and other “commissions”. There is an old expression worriers might apply, here: Pre-Tribbers might be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.”
It has been my observation–and experience–however, that those of us who do subscribe to the Doctrine are much more so than ever before concerned with–and laboring in–the spiritual “harvest field,” so to speak.
We are more than ever concerned with being “about our Father’s business” as we are acutely aware that we may have a very limited time remaining to be so–and do so.
It has also been my observation that those who do not believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture or who discard this doctrine altogether in favor of some other fulfillment of the return of Christ later to restore the earth and its people remain with either “business as usual” (e.g., raising money for a bigger church buildings, trying out programs to be more “seeker friendly”) or figuring out how to tread increasingly anti-Christian political waters to keep the existing doors open and lights on.
Worriers might also spend considerable energy on long-term survival ways and means and divert their energies to set up shops to sell “prepper supplies”.
There is nothing wrong with reasonable preparedness, of course, for any emergency situation, but more would necessarily be needed if deliverance is not nigh–or even if it is non-existent according to some variations on the Second Coming doctrine.
And, of course, the admonition to “occupy until Jesus returns” also applies and may well include continuing to lay brick and mortar for a new building project.
But my focus here is an awareness that just as physical pregnancy includes a stage of decathexis, an analogous, spiritual decathexis may also occur.
Just as a mother at this stage of pregnancy re-focuses more and more from “business as usual” to prepare for the delivery and birth events coming soon, spiritually, I believe something similar takes place, and is taking place among many believers just now.
As the world waxes worse, men’s hearts harden, persecution of Christians rises, and other “end of the Church Age” events unfold (the Age, aka “end times,” many prophecy scholars believe we are in), a believer’s attention shifts to evangelizing, preaching, teaching, comforting, and encouraging like never before, as the birthing of a new spiritual reality seems very nigh.
For Pre-Tribbers in particular, now more than ever it becomes a high priority to spread the Gospel, before the “night comes when no man can work“, interpret that how you may, for this seems to be another era in the church at large, another stage of end times spiritual pregnancy just before certain events occur that will harken the birth of a new spiritual life, a new spiritual order.
This, of course, might seem to some to be a kind of abandoning or de-commissioning of the Great Commission as it has been understood and accomplished in prior eras.
But in keeping with the pregnancy analogy, it might mean a different way of prioritizing spiritual matters, less focus on temporal norms, more of a sense of urgency as the signs of the times may well be revealing Jesus’ soon return.
And because there are many Christians who do believe we can just proceed as usual, it might mean the rest of us will have to switch fellowships for more prophecy teaching, preaching, encouragement, and comfort.
On Some Particulars of A Spiritual Prequel to End Times Events
Just as family members might wonder at and perhaps worry about a pregnant woman’s sudden and newfound energy to clean, stock, and organize before the baby is born, they might also be a little frustrated that she seems to be in another place mentally, as well. Her focus is on what’s coming up. She wants to talk with experienced moms about what the books don’t tell you, for one thing.
A late-trimester mom is also wondering about all of the unexpected experiences that might accompany her childbirth, for example, will she need a C-Section? How long will she have to labor? How much will it hurt? And so on. She may be very well read-up and coached on all these things, but there are always the variables to prepare for–physically, mentally, and emotionally, as much as one can prepare.
Spiritually speaking, what might be of great concern and take extra thought, preparation, and prayer outside of the activities of normal life–causing spiritual decathexing–include:
- Critics who become angry in trying to convince Pre-Tribbers they are heretics. Agreeing to disagree agreeably will be the focus;
- How to reach loved ones who are still resistant to, apathetic about, or unaware of the Gospel. Focusing on God’s inspiration and timing will be important;
- How to keep our “oil lamps filled” if, indeed, the “return of the Bridegroom (Jesus) is truly coming fast. Focusing on studies pertaining to the Holy Spirit’s vital role in this will help (exploring the Baptism in the Holy Spirit** might provide particular insight);
- How to remain in the love of the Lord as the world becomes increasingly hostile to the Gospel–and the Gospellers, as it were (here are some recommendations for the struggle which is really sourced in the spiritual realm);
- How and where to find others of like mind when prophecy is taught in fewer and fewer churches. Many are finding like-minded believers Online, if not locally. May I suggest the following ministries, but there are a growing number:
- Olive Tree Ministries, administered by Jan Markell. Jan hosts guests who talk on prophecy and many other timely topics on her weekly radio show.
- Pastor J.D. Farag Of Calvary Chapel in Kaneohe, HI, who also provides a weekly prophecy update as well as other teachings, and
- Attorney and Pastor John Haller, of Fellowship Bible Chapel, who provides a different style of weekly prophecy updates featuring many headlines of relevant news events; and, of course,
- How to best spend our time of preparation while still occupying our place in the Body of Christ as well as in the world.
Whether or not we are so close to the “day and hour” of “delivery,” in this case in the spiritual sense, only God knows.
But we do have the signs of the times to inform us, and the prophecy scholars to educate us–if they are permitted to preach and teach in our churches, that is.
At the same time, however, we can be excited, like the expectant mother in her last trimester, that He who knows the end from the beginning has also encouraged us to look up, as our redemption draweth nigh–whatever the logistics of it might be…
As we decathex spiritually, narrowing our focus to Jesus Christ and how we might exemplify Him in a world going (daily) darker and more hostile, both from inside and outside the churches, we can say, as did the early Christians, Maranatha (“The Lord is coming” or “Come, O Lord,”) because one of these days or nights, He will.
In the meantime, more so than ever, even as the pregnant mother must be about her business at each specific stage of pregnancy, spiritually, we must be about “our Father’s business” as the Body of Christ in this specific era of the Church.
**For information on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, here is one of innumerable articles that features the salient Scriptures.