When I was MUCH younger, I went with friends to a popular amusement park where screams and the smell of greasy French fries hovered and the lines for the rides stretched on and on. Ever experienced that sort of thing?
Ah, yes. There’s nothing like waiting in line with some of your favorite friends for three hours to hop on a ride that will last approximately ninety seconds. You’re sporting your favorite sunglasses with a wad of money crammed in your front pocket, and you made sure to wear your comfortable sandals because you knew you were going to be standing in line for a long, long time.
Maybe your feet get a little sore as the day goes on and you regret not lathering on a healthy dollop of sunblock as the sun begins to bake your forehead and scalp, but you hardly mind.
Why? Because you’re spending time with some of your best friends and there is a lot to talk about. There’s lots of elbowing and wrapping arms around shoulders. You’ve all mastered a secret code when it comes to inside jokes, so the people weaving around you in line won’t have a clue that you’re discussing something personal and maybe even a little embarrassing. Perhaps you don’t even need the code but a certain look; the raising of an eyebrow, side glance, and the tiniest smirk leave you busting up uncontrollably in a fit of laughter and wishing you could step out of line just for a moment to find the restroom.
It’s a great thing, really, and you don’t mind the long line because you’re with friends and you know you’re waiting for something thrilling, something that will probably take your breath away.
You’re not ignoring your friends, focusing solely on the twists of the ride or the screams of those ahead of you. You’re not shushing your friends when they want to share their latest story of tripping and wiping out in a crowd or the last time a joke forced milk to come shooting out of an unsuspecting nose. And you’re not standing there with your arms crossed and a scowl on your face because the waiting is just killing you.
That’s what it’s like when you and I focus on what God is going to do for us and where He’s leading us instead of just being with Him.
How do I know? I’ve recently been convicted of this. A LOT.
I spend so much time complaining about the long wait in line and staring at the “ride” up ahead that I’m not even enjoying the One who is waiting with me. I’m not enjoying our inside jokes, laughing with Him about the time I tried to make a snow angel for Him and got stuck, looking like a turtle on its back with legs flailing. I’m not connecting with Him, recognizing those personal glances where we don’t even need to say a word to each other. I’m not standing in awe at the very idea that God Almighty chooses to wait with me in this line.
I’m too busy trying to figure out what the ride will be like. I want to understand it, study it, prepare for it, and then even plan how I’m going to respond. (Am I the only one who does this?!) Will I scream with delight or am I going exit the ride, pout, and complain, “I waited all that time for that?!”
But what about God? How does it look from His perspective? Is He standing by our side, watching us as we focus on the ride? Is He trying to speak to us, but we’re too busy shushing Him because we want to hear how others are reacting, what they’re saying after they exit the ride and walk away?
Forgive us, Lord.
Maybe instead of focusing on what God has planned for us, what the ride up ahead is going to be like, we can fix our eyes on Him right now. Right here in line while we’re waiting. Sure, we can be aware of the ride. We know it’s there. We’re not oblivious to it. But maybe we can stop staring at it, stop trying to figure it all out, long enough to really see Who is standing with us; to appreciate His gentleness, to see His smile.
Maybe we can spend the time in line to relive some favorite memories with Him, to remember one of His many rescues in our lives. Maybe we can share with Him how much we appreciate the fact that He never leaves us to stand in a long line of strangers all alone. (How difficult would that be?!) Perhaps we can talk with Him about the ride, expressing our joy and anticipation, but remember to thank Him in advance; knowing He’s the Creator of the ride and it’s not only going to take our breath away but will leave us leaning in closer to Him as the air comes back fuller, deeper.
And when it’s our turn to hop on the ride and buckle our seat belts, we wouldn’t even think about not scooting over to make room for God to sit with us. We wouldn’t even think of not sharing this ride with Him, not wanting Him to be a part of it, of leaving Him to stand on the platform while we ride alone or with someone else.
We want God to be right there with us as we climb higher and higher and as the twists and turns leave us breathless. We want Him to be right there, holding our hand when the thrill shifts to fright. We want to laugh with Him and experience the view with Him.
Really, we can’t imagine riding this ride without Him.
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11 NLT.)