I asked the Lord this morning, “How can I put into words how I have been feeling?” I felt drawn to the computer to wrestle it out. Here is the product of that time.
There are a lot of things I used to look forward to as a kid. I used to look forward to my birthday. I used to look forward to Christmas. I used to look forward to a new school year starting. I used to look forward to horse shows. I used to look forward to when I was older and could experience for myself what I saw others experiencing: to be able to drive, to finally have a boyfriend, to go to college, to get married, to have a child…
I used to look forward a lot.
We use the term “look forward to” as a term of anticipation. When we are excited about something that has not yet happened, we say, “I am looking forward to _____”
I find that I do not have as many of those “I’m looking forward to” moments anymore. Things like birthdays and Christmas change as you get older. I still miss what Christmas (and my birthday for that matter) used to mean for me before becoming a believer. I really looked forward to the gifts and the special moments spent with my mom. I looked forward to the feeling of being loved and special that came from receiving gifts. I am slightly embarrassed to admit this, but now that I know and believe that Christmas is really about Jesus, that is a little disappointing. I do not look forward to celebrating Christmas as much as I did before I began a journey with Jesus. Doesn’t that seem backwards? Shouldn’t I look forward to Christmas MORE now that I know why the holiday really exists?
Yes, I think I should. And I do look forward to Christmas for all the right reasons far more than I ever did. Christmas used to be about the material stuff. Now I clearly see that Christmas is really about the spiritual stuff. I have many years of defining Christmas a certain way, and now I can no longer define (or look forward to) Christmas in that way. Christmas is not about what I give/get. It is about reflecting upon the God of the Universe making a way for his righteous wrath to be absorbed in a way that did not lead to our punishment and death. It is about the intense love of the Father in heaven who refused to see his beloved children parish, so he sent his Son to take our place. It is still fun to have a holiday that encourages giving to others (and this portion of Christmas reflects God’s heart), but clearly giving and getting gifts is not the point.
What I look forward to is changing. Change is sometimes difficult and a little painful, but when the change is orchestrated by God, the end result is good and brings greater freedom.
In case you were wondering, I really do love God. I love Him a lot. I want to love him more and more. I want the celebration of Jesus coming to earth to be more significant and exciting than any celebration I had as a child. If I pause to contemplate all that Jesus did for me and the miraculousness of Jesus coming to earth at Christmas, the material things do fade into the background. It is the pausing part that I struggle with.
Also, I do not really know how to love God well. Loving God is not like loving a person. He does not need anything I have to offer. Offering my love to God does nothing to change God’s disposition. He is no fuller or happier because of anything I offer him. He is already full and complete without me. He does not NEED me.
But he wants me.
He wants to hear my voice. He wants to receive my affection. He wants to be thought much of by me. Why does he want these things from me? Because HE loves me. Because of his love for me, he longs to be in relationship with me. He longs to fill me more and more with his goodness, so that I may live with more and more freedom and joy.
“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
God DOES want us to look forward. God wants us to long for and anticipate the kingdom of heaven coming to earth. He wants us to look forward to all things good being restored and God reigning supremely. Which, for the record, is not just something that happens after we die or Jesus comes back – but that’s a whole other blog post in itself.
If we pause to think about it, I think all of us could honestly admit that we DO long for heaven. It is that deep longing for heaven (which is so much more than a place) that fuels us to long for the new, the better, and the fun. Sometimes we look for our longings to be fulfilled in the wrong places and wrong ways, but we all really long to see heaven come to earth.
As one who has endured a measure of suffering (infertility) for 6 years, I definitely long for heaven to come to earth.
I used to look forward to having another baby.
It may seem slightly contradictory, but as I find myself in this land of limbo (not knowing if we will have more children), I feel like I missed out on looking forward because I was looking forward in the wrong direction. I did not get to look forward to when my kids were older and could function more independently. I did not think we were done with the baby stage, so I never allowed myself to move into the next stage with Joshua. It has been as if I am holding my breath, waiting for our third child. As I have been holding my breath, not wanting life to move forward, I now have an almost 4 and 8 year old. We are in a different season of life and parenting, whether I want to be there or not. Unlike many parents who are overwhelmed with the demands of having small children, I did not get to look forward to this season (with a new set of demands and challenges), I am just here.
In reality, the problem was not in missing out on looking forward to a new stage of parenting, the issue was in failing to be present. I did not soak up the moments with Joshua as a baby because I thought there would be more moments. I thought I would have another baby. I did not soak up feeling him move inside me, recognizing that his pregnancy would be my last because I did not think it was. I assumed we would have another, and therefore, I did not soak it up. That was my fault. I forgot to be fully present in the moment I was in. I had plans and I was living according to those plans rather than embracing the unpredictable story of my life that was being told. I was trying to live in two story lines simultaneously – which does not work. My life is one story, and it is God’s story. He has control over the plot, I do not. I have ideas about how I would like the story to unfold, but in the end, it is his story map that wins.
When you are looking forward to something, whatever that thing is, it has a hold on you. The strings of your heart are in some way attached to that thing, and it has the ability to pull your heart in directions and along paths that may not be best for you.
Jesus says to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
“All these things” refers to the physical, tangible stuff. Seek the spiritual and the physical will work itself out. We often flip-flop these two. We go after the physical, in hopes of working out the spiritual. It does not work that way.
I still do not know if God intends to give us another child. I have wrestled a lot of things about this topic (I wrote a whole book on it), but I do not know how the story will unfold. I do, however, trust the Author, and I think it is as if God is saying, “Agree to walk along my path, living out the story line I have written. Throw away any script you have written for your life and trust that I will weave in the good portions of your script and I will discard the things that are not good for you. Trust me. Enjoy the journey. Do not worry about what is behind or what is ahead. Just live. And walk WITH ME. I want to enjoy the journey with you.”
So here’s to looking forward (for the right reasons), and be fully present in this moment.