The mother of all prefixes
In case you haven’t noticed, our society holds great affection for the prefix “pre.” I’m sure this fondness for this little word is keeping you awake at night. What was designed to be a handy prefix for connoting sequence, as in that which comes before or prior to something else, has turned into a misused, abused, and confused little three-letter word.
There’s no difference between boarding and pre-boarding a plane. If there was a difference, what would pre-boarding mean? You get on the plane before you actually get on it!? And how do you pre-book a flight anyhow? That word makes no sense. You either book a flight or you don’t book a flight. You can’t book a booking of a flight. Pre-planning purportedly has something to do with planning in advance. But isn’t that the whole point of planning itself – that we do it in advance? You can’t really pre-plan your funeral; you can only plan it. Right?
Corporations pre-announce their quarterly earnings. Credit card companies like to pre-qualify and pre-approve us. Your body may have a pre-existing condition. Film premieres nowadays get eclipsed by pre-premieres. I’ve been invited to pre-meetings to pre-discuss and pre-decide and pre-evaluate I don’t know what. Are you wearing pre-washed jeans while reading this?
So, here we are, just weeks or days before December 25, trying to PREPARE something – typically our hearts and homes – for the Christmas moment. The Latin etymology of prepare – praeparare; prae (“in advance”), parare (“make ready”) – sounds like its own redundancy. If we are making or getting ready for something, how do we do that in advance? They seem like the same thing.
I don’t have an answer to this conundrum. All I know is that I’m rarely prepared adequately for much of anything. From making appointments on time, to giving people the time they deserve, to eating and sleeping in appropriate measure to face every new day. But maybe our hearts can never be fully prepared, especially when it comes to welcoming the breath or presence of God. I suppose we can resent this frustrating reality or, in turn, love it. I find it rather beautiful that we must always be in the business of trying to make ready for the Lord. Whether all this “making ready” work can be done “in advance” or not, you’re going to have ask someone smarter than me to learn the answer to that one. Pre-Christmas blessings to you.