They say that the anticipation of an event is often as exciting as the event itself. I love Christmas, but for me it has always been the decorations, the music, and the busyness in the stores and shops in the weeks before the day itself that mark my favorite time of the year. Birthdays can be an important milestone to look forward to, but with the blowing out of a candle, the day is gone, and in our mental calendar, we begin to mark off the days until the next one arrives.
But that isn’t true of Cedar Point, or King’s Island, or Disney World, or any other amusement park that we visited as a kid. The trip may have been exciting, but it didn’t compare to the magic of the park itself. So much to do and see, and so little time to take it all in. I wasn’t a big rider in those days, and I still avoid anything that spins. Or twirls. Or twists. Or rotates. Or makes any sudden starts and stops. But occasionally, with great fear and trepidation, I would dare to approach one of the monstrous rides and take a chance on risking my young life. As I approached the entrance to the ride, I often noticed that the ride operator held a stick in his hand. Next to the stick was a sign that read “You must be as tall as this stick to ride this ride”. And often the operator would hold this litmus test against one of the smaller kids standing in line, and occasionally he would shake his head, and we would watch a too-short but hopeful daredevil turn away disappointed as he failed to meet the height requirement.
That scene is repeated in many ways throughout our lifetimes. We spend a lot of our time and energy and emotion trying to “measure up” to someone’s standards or expectations in hopes that we will be accepted. Sometimes in the process we compromise our values and consciences, and we began to collect a backpack full of regrets. As a result, we face a lot of disappointment, hurt, and damage to our self-esteem, and these can become scars that we carry for the rest of our lives.
God has a measuring stick as well. It’s taller than I am. It’s taller than any of us. No matter how much I grow, or how much I try to stand on my tiptoes to measure up to that standard, I can’t do it. I always fall short. Every day I prove that I’m not worthy to pass that standard and earn the right to be accepted. But that’s the point of the Gospel. None of us measure up. None of us can ever grow enough, do enough, be enough to be worthy of entering the Kingdom.
And that is one of the many differences between Heaven and Cedar Point. When I approach the entrance to Heaven, and the stick is held up against me, and it is obvious that I fall short of the standard God requires of me, instead of shaking His head and turning me away, the Creator of the Universe is going to see that I’ve chosen to bring a Friend. This Friend more than passes the standard that God has placed for entrance, and when the Father looks at Jesus, and Jesus takes my hand and proclaims “He is with me”, the Father will open the gate, and my Friend will escort me in.
That was the point of the cross. God knew we could not measure up to the sinlessness that only Jesus possessed. So on that cross, for all who would accept him, the Son of God, took on himself the rejection and the hurt that we all deserved. He loves us that much.
I am anticipating my promised entrance into His presence with great joy, yet I know that the joy of my anticipation will be greatly exceeded by the joy of seeing His face on my arrival on that day. Then I will know that the waiting has been worthwhile.