One of my favorite memories of my childhood was Christmas morning. I remember being so excited the night before that no matter how hard I tried to fall asleep, it would be a seemingly impossible task. My brother and I would try to watch boring movies, put headphones in to limit distractions, go to bed at 6 pm, and on and on. They never worked, we were always far too excited to go to sleep. While I do remember some of the gifts I received on Christmas mornings, the most vivid memories are the ones of the nights before. Now, years removed from waking up Christmas morning wondering what gifts I’d receive, I anticipate Christmas morning for my kids. I can’t wait to give them their gifts and see their reactions. But, I don’t struggle to fall asleep. That extreme anticipatory feeling is reserved for other future events.
For instance, now, my anniversary with my wife causes the same feelings and inability to sleep that Christmas mornings caused. Each year, we go out to a nice dinner – sometimes out of town – and get the opportunity to reflect on our marriage and what a gift it has been. I look forward to this evening probably more than any other. The same feeling I had before Christmas morning as a child exists the night before our anniversary plans. I struggle to sleep and attempt to ease the process via the same methods (I haven’t learned much, apparently). I try to use my headphones and listen to music; I try to read myself to sleep, I try to make our room pitch-black dark, and on and on. These methods, just like in my childhood, do not work. So, I typically go to the living room and watch TV until it becomes far later than I hoped I’d stay up.
What do you anticipate? What is it that you so look forward to that you can’t sleep? For some, it’s vacation, for others, it’s work (really), and for others, it might be time with their grandkids. No matter what it is, we all know the feeling. And, this feeling is a gift from God. God – in his infinite wisdom – has created us with excitement for certain things. And, of course, his ultimate goal is for us to have that anticipation for him. But, this is difficult, right?
It was just a few days ago, in my reading of Romans, that I came across a short passage – half of a verse actually – that addressed this feeling and where it ought to find its place.
In Romans 13:11b, Paul writes,
…For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
That’s it. In the ESV, it is merely 12 words, but packs so much meaning that it has profoundly challenged me to rethink the way in which I approach anticipation. The words aren’t in-and-of themselves new to most people. Anyone who knows of a future event also knows that with each passing moment, the event is that much closer. Tomorrow is now a second closer, a minute closer, an hour closer, and so on; this is an obvious part of life. For us Christians, we know heaven is closer and closer with each day, but why is it we don’t anticipate it – and our salvation being complete – the same way we anticipate other earthly things? Of course, to anticipate time with one’s spouse, family, or other similar events, isn’t at all bad. In fact, God made us to anticipate these events. However, he also made us to anticipate him and to look forward to time with him.
I want this feeling. I want to recognize that with each passing day, I am that much closer to entering glory. And, though I want this, I’m not sure how to get to the point where my anticipation is not only directed toward earthly goods but – more importantly – toward God. I want to get to the point where my excitement is overflowing for things like:
Reading his word
Praying to him
Fasting for a more profound dependency on him
Singing to him
I’m not sure how I will get to the place where my anticipation is directed at him each night, but I am going to try everything I can to get to that place. My first step is to go to sleep each night thinking about my morning routine, which consists of coffee, prayer, study, prayer, writing and potentially more coffee. I want to get to a place where the anticipation of that time with God makes it difficult to sleep.
Each night, I’m going to pray a prayer like this:
God, my father, turn my heart toward you. I can’t wait to spend time with you in the morning. I can’t wait to direct my mind and my actions toward you as the first thing I do. I want to anticipate you more than I anticipate anything else in my life. I want the last and first thing I think about each day to be you. Help me to desire you above all else, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
What are some practices which you think might help you to anticipate God?
List them in the comments below!