Pregnant with Heaven


tanya marlow -pregnant with heaven3

When I was a child and teenager, preparing for and expecting Jesus’ imminent return was a popular topic in the Christian circles I was in. I understood that I was supposed to eagerly anticipate it, because that was the right thing, but the precursor to Jesus’ return sounded quite terrifying. I saw films imagining torture and persecution of Christians in the end times, testing their faith. I was terrified of being a ‘halfhearted’ Christian who got ‘left behind’ from the mass rapture of believers up to heaven. (To this day, I get a little bit worried when I see my husband’s slippers left in the middle of the hall, in case he’s been raptured and I’ve been left behind.)

I felt guilty for wanting things more than Christ’s return. As a kid, I much preferred waiting for Christmas. Maybe you’ve also prayed prayers like, “Lord, Jesus, please come soon. But not too soon–at least wait till after I’ve been to Amy’s party next week …”

This is the space many of us find ourselves in– feeling like we ought to pray for Christ’s return, but not quite sure why, when Christ’s return sounds scary. It’s like we’re expecting an inspection from a strict headmaster at any moment, who may find us wanting. It’s like waiting for a party pooper to spoil all our fun.


Now, though, I realise I feel a little differently about Christ’s return, and it was childbirth that changed my mind. Waiting for Christ’s return is to wait as Mary did: pregnantly. We don’t stop our lives and twiddle our thumbs, we live, knowing that the new life of Christ is forming within us every day. We occasionally feel pangs or twinges of pain that remind us that Christ is one day coming, and sometimes that feels a little scary. Sometimes we feel a sense of excitement. Sometimes it all doesn’t seem quite real. Other times we completely forget that we are expecting Christ.

This is what it means to be a Christian. We don’t freeze our lives as we wait for Christ, as though we must hold our breath until either we die or Christ comes again. There is good to be done in this world, and God’s good gifts to enjoy. And as we enjoy our lives, Christ is still being formed within us. Sometimes we live our lives almost forgetting about Christ. Other times we can feel a quickening in our spirit, as a pregnant woman feels the fluttering of a baby’s first kicks, and we long for a glimpse of heaven.

When I hold this image, of a pregnant woman expecting a precious baby, it is easier to look forward to Christ’s return. A precious baby is not only an interruption to life, and a disruption to our comfortable life– but it is a shattering of something that existed before, and an introduction to something more wonderful still. However wonderful it was to be pregnant, it was infinitely more thrilling for me to meet my baby face to face.

This, now, is the image I hold whenever I think about Christ’s return.

Whenever I read the world’s news about suffering, cruelty, injustice and evil, I feel that pang within me, anticipating Christ’s arrival, when this broken world will be restored. When I feel the joy of the beauty of creation, I think about the greater fulfillment that heaven must be: more, more, more beauty, more goodness.

When I spot something of Christ’s presence in my life, I think of how much greater it will be when i can see Christ face to face– and look directly into the source of all love. Whenever I survey the mess we are making of the natural world, I think of the healing that will be done when Christ returns.

Strangely, whereas the doctrine of Jesus coming back used to paralyse me with fear and inactivity (why bother doing anything when God will make everything new anyway?), now I believe that to participate in the healing of the world is to prepare yourself and the world for arrival of Christ. I used to worry more about getting other people ready for Christ, and there’s a place for that, but right now I’m conscious of preparing room in my own heart for him.

We are all pregnant with a little piece of heaven, God’s Spirit now rejoicing with us, now groaning with us, as we yearn for more than this life can bring. This is why “return” is a good name for the idea of Christ coming to renew the world and make everything right again: because our souls remember a perfect and good world. Though we may be focused on the hustle and bustle of the here and now, deep down, we all long for a return to Eden, and perhaps for a greater Eden to come.

As I begin to think about Advent, and that season of waiting, I pray, as an adult, with all sincerity, “Come, Lord Jesus.”