Julie was only singing what we already know intuitively: ‘Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down . . . in the most delightful way!’ That is why dentists offer kids toys at the end of a visit, doctors offer candy, parents promise trips to that Ronald place, or stops at an ice cream shop, or the bookstore (mine). Knowing there’s a reward for not biting the dentist (again), for being brave when getting stuck by that pointy thing, for not whingeing about yucky-tasting syrups, for not spitting out medicines, seems to balance the scales – somewhat. 

In school, as year-end exam week approached, with its hours and hours of study and review, its catching up on required reading, its last-minute deadlines for term papers, its late-night cramming for some, the ‘reward’ waiting on that last day was a release from academia, at least for the summer. Yay! Typically, though, there was one course which was particularly onerous. The material was the most difficult to master. The exam itself was the most challenging. The professor was the most demanding, most critical, most nitpicky. This was the course which one was most grateful to see come to an end.

After bidding adieu to the hallowed halls of ivy, the next, sometimes terrifying, stage is adulting. With the arrival of this new set of responsibilities comes (cue the theme from ‘Jaws’) the much-dreaded job interview. For a guy, preparing for said appointment is never easy. Finding a tie, then getting it tied, is one of the frequent temper-flaring exercises. Keeping your voice from cracking is a nightmare (as is profuse sweating). Do your shoes match? Don’t let your knees shake! Look at your inquisitioner, er interviewer. Don’t mumble. Be polite. Just answer the questions. When your counterpart stands to end the appointment, stand confidently, looking at him/her, and thank them for their time. Once outside again, head straight for your preferred den of comfort food. Indulge. phew.

Sometimes, the word ‘after’ is the sweetest word known to mankind. It indicates a longed-for ending. It speaks of a ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ It offers the hope of a better tomorrow, a second chance, a new beginning. Jesus presented the church in Smyrna with the promise that their current suffering and trials would end. And he would personally be present to reward them – with life! He reminded his loved ones in that church that he was in charge. He would accompany them to the very end. That there would be a most desirable ‘after’ for them.

In 2023, for the suffering church around the world, this promise holds. Jesus still waits, laden with crowns of life to hand out to his faithful beloved. For members of Vineyard Church of the Peninsula who are currently waiting (languishing?) for an ‘after,’ Jesus is standing, waiting for our afters, too. He is the Lover of our souls, the Faithful One, the Prototype Conqueror, the Ultimate Overcomer. And he is for us! Hallelujah!  PD

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