I have noticed something in my own life that is concerning. I am moving through life to get to something else in life. In short, I am living in anticipation of the future, not being fully present. This is not a new phenomenon. To quote the great poet Mike Reno, “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” Many are moving through life, to get to something that we think is better than our current reality.
Recognitions like this alert me to observe the landscape. What are other people doing? Am I more like them than I am like Jesus? This is not an attempt to shift the blame for my failures of perspective, but simply to take to heart that the measure of influence in my life has been shifted toward the world and away from Jesus. This allows for some self assessment and much needed course correction.
Anticipation can be our personal issue, leading us to distraction from Jesus. However, the anticipations of others that are placed on us can also cause us to shift focus. Mike Reno again: “Everyone’s looking to see if it was you, Everyone wants you to come through, Everyone’s hoping it will all work out, Everyone’s waiting they’re holding out.” Many of Jesus’ followers were followers solely in anticipation of his Kingship. They wanted to see what he would do, to ride on his coat tails into a new existence that they thought would be better than their present doldrums.
Anticipation in and of itself is not a bad thing. Throughout the Bible we see characters anticipating the coming of the Messiah. We see Jesus teach about the prepared bridesmaids who are anticipating the coming of the bride groom. So where does anticipation cross over to alter our course of following Jesus?
For each of us, anticipation that leads to distraction may be different, but for me it looks like this: the majority of my thought life is distracted by thinking about what is to come, what might happen. Instead, I believe I should be living fully present for Jesus here and now. In the decisions that I am making, in the conversations that I am having, in the text messages that I am sending, in my prayers, in my driving, in my walking, in my waiting for my Starbucks, in all of life, am I fully present to those around me? Am I fully present to the Holy Spirit’s voice guiding, directing, and influencing?
This past week, a rather peculiar thought came into my brain. I wondered why, but then identified it as the leading of the Holy Spirit to do something that I did not want to do. As I prayed through this, I was struck by the idea that I had a choice to make. I could dismiss the thought or I could be obedient. I reached out to some friends to pray for me as I had decided to be obedient and I had no idea how or where this obedience was going to play out. I wish I could tell you at the end of the day, I had an identified reason why the Holy Spirit asked me to be obedient. But I can’t, and I may never know. I just know that I was asked to follow, to be faithful, present, and so I did. I share this simply to illustrate that when anticipation leads to distraction, we miss opportunities to be used by God.
Spiritual Practice –
How do we anchor our thoughts in the work of being fully present? It is a work in progress but here are some suggestions:
Ask the Holy Spirit for help in this area? Ask Him to speak, lead, guide your thoughts and actions. How many times to do we pray that God will assist us with our plans for the day, rather than pray that we would be open to God’s plans for the day as we go about our normal duties?
Set yourself a reminder, a calendar date, a visual signal to refocus on Jesus. I have a friend who changed the home screen on his phone to a single white word on a black background, “Jesus.” For him, every time he opened his phone, it served to remind him what he was to be about.
Get yourself a blank journal and daily write down where you felt the influence of being a follower of Jesus, throughout your day. End your reflection time by asking for more of Jesus’ influence in your life.
Use your lunch break to read some scripture. This can be a great way to refocus on whose you are and who really is in control.
Link with an accountability partner. Agree to text one another two to three times throughout the day to keep one another on task for Jesus. Our Dusty Disciples group uses the phrase, “Bring it.” as a rallying cry to give to Jesus our best.
This journey of following Jesus has an end goal that can not be rushed. This end goal is only reached through the daily faithfulness of following our Savior.
Begin, patiently, to put these spiritual practices into your life, and you will hear Jesus say, “This is the way, walk here… I am the way, follow me.”