I was so excited when the confirmation letter came. A seat was reserved just for me. I was going to be seeing one of my spiritual super heroes, Anne Graham Lotz. At the time I registered for the event I didn’t even know what she was speaking about. All that had been posted on the website were the dates, location, and speaker. That was all I needed. Previous experience had taught me not to wait. At least twice before the tickets for her seminar were sold out almost as quickly as they went on sale. But this time I was in, and I had the letter to prove it. Since it was still several weeks away I tucked the letter away along with some of my other travel plans.
As the trip got closer I began my preparations to jet off to North Carolina. I reviewed my reservations and made sure I had everything in place. I pulled out the confirmation letter again and read it more thoroughly. That’s when I noticed something. I indeed had a seat reserved for the seminar but my seat would be in Room 303 where the seminar would be live streamed. A wave of disappointment came over me. I wouldn’t be seeing her live after all. I’d be watching her via video.
I read the letter again. With each reading I was less sure she was even going to be at the same location. I remembered that she had had some significant health issues and thought perhaps that was keeping her from being able to travel and speak. Perhaps she was speaking remotely from her home and all of us at the North Carolina location would just be watching a simulcast of the event. I wasn’t sure but I was still determined to make the trip. Even seeing her via video would be worth it.
When I arrived at the location for the first night of the seminar I was overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance. There must have been over 500 people all eager to hear Anne speak. I looked through the registration materials and a map of the conference center. There was a large auditorium on the main floor of the building. But where was Room 303, where my seat had been reserved? I looked again and spotted it just above the auditorium on the third floor. Then I realized what my confirmation letter had meant. Anne would definitely be there live and in person, speaking in the auditorium. But my seat was in Room 303, the overflow room. She was there, I just wouldn’t be seeing her live. I’d be watching via video from another room.
Somehow I was even more disappointed. At least if she was speaking remotely no one there would have seen her live. But now that I realized she was actually there and just some of us weren’t going to see her live… ugh. I just felt bad.
Pretty soon the time came for the first session to start. I kept waiting for an announcement from someone to direct those of us with seats in Room 303. No announcement. The crowds began to head to the auditorium. I dutifully headed to the elevator and made my way to the third floor. There was no one else on the elevator and no one around when the doors opened. I passed a conference room where there were a couple of staff members on their laptops. I made my way to Room 303. It was set up like a small lecture hall, similar to the auditorium but with seating for about 50 or so. A large video screen covered the front wall of the room but there was nothing being projected onto it. The room was completely empty. And, other than those two I passed in the conference room there was no one on the entire floor except me.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Although the lights were on in the room there were no signs that the room was going to be used to view the seminar. I headed back down the elevator in the hopes that the other 49 of us assigned to Room 303 would be waiting to join me when I reached the main floor. But, when the doors opened no one was there waiting. There was just a long line of people streaming into the main auditorium. And so I followed.
When I reached the doors to the auditorium there were several volunteers there to greet everyone. I pulled one of them to the side and explained my dilemma. “The letter I received said that I had a seat reserved in Room 303. I was just up there and no one was there. Am I supposed to be up there?”
Puzzled, the woman smiled and said, “Everyone’s in here tonight.”
“Really?” I asked .
“Yep. There’s no one in the overflow room tonight.”
Gratefully I smiled and entered with the rest of the throng and found a seat fairly close to the platform. I couldn’t believe it! There was a seat for me and I was going to see Anne live and in person. And sure enough, just a few moments later, there she was.
I’d love to tell you that was the end of the story, but no. What was the one word that I picked up on when I spoke to volunteer at the door? – tonight. I began to say to myself, She said there was no one in the overflow room “tonight” but tomorrow, that might be a different story. I better not get too comfortable. There are probably people who couldn’t make it to tonight’s session but they’ll be here tomorrow. They’ll have to open the overflow room for sure and that’s where I’ll be. Bummer.
The next day came and I once again waited for the announcement for us “Room 303 people.” There was none. Thankfully, this time I did not take the elevator to the third floor. Although I thought about it, I reluctantly trusted that I would just sit in the auditorium until I was dismissed to Room 303 because there wasn’t enough room for everyone. I sat down and waited. Worship started. There seemed to be a few empty seats here and there. Are they late? Surely, this seat won’t be mine again today.
There was no dismissal. The seat was mine. And once again I enjoyed the seminar live and in person.
Again, I wish this was the end of the story! The truth is, there were several other times that I found myself doubting the goodness I was receiving throughout most of the weekend. My mind was so consumed with the potential for disappointment that I was barely taking in the true blessing of what I was experiencing. Why? Why do I do that to myself?
I am currently reading the Book of Psalms. While I prefer the narratives of the Old Testament to the poetry I am loving the opportunity to see David’s relationship with the Lord through his writings. As I read these poems and songs I am seeing the depth of David’s love for God in a new way. It is no wonder that David was a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) He has such a clear understanding of how good God is and how much he is loved by Him.
David’s psalms not only praise God for who He is, they reflect David’s deepest fears and strongest emotions. He lays his heart bare before the Lord. And yet there is hope in every psalm; hope in who God is and how steadfast His love is for His people. David anticipates God’s goodness in all of his circumstances. Here is just a small sample from the earliest chapters of the Book of Psalms.
“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, ‘God will never rescue him!’ But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.” (Psalm 3)
“I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. …The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.” (Psalm 6:6, 9)
“Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety” (Psalm 16:1-2, 8-9)
“How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory. For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord. The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling.” (Psalm 21:1-2, 5-7)
I could go on and on and on. Almost every Psalm has an element of that great hope, that beautiful anticipation of God’s goodness. David KNEW God. He knew how great His love was for him, not just intellectually, but experientially. His knowledge was based in their relationship. David knew God because he knew Him personally. In the midst of his worst circumstances, he had hope that God would rescue him. In the midst of his most joyous victories, he gave God the glory for those victories and used them as yet another reason to praise Him. What a beautiful, inspiring and intimate relationship they had.
Every moment of that Anne Graham Lotz seminar was a blessing to me, through and through. But God was showing me how reluctant I can be to anticipate His goodness for me. He was showing me how focusing on potential disappointment steals my joy. Perhaps it’s just a bad habit. Don’t anticipate anything good and you won’t be disappointed. But, oh the joy that I miss out on! Joy that God intended for me to experience.
God reminded me that I had been asking Him for years to help me better know His love for me. He has answered that prayer and shown me His love in ways that have permanently changed me. He has and continues to help me understand more and more His great love for me. But I need to walk away from those old habits, those habits that don’t reflect the love that I now know. Instead, like David, I need to live in hope, anticipating the goodness of God that I KNOW to be true! My words, my thoughts, my actions, my journaling, my blog posts need to be filled with reflections of who I know Him to be, a God of unfailing love who wants to bless His people with goodness. A God who wants to reach the whole world with His love.
God had a seat reserved just for me at that seminar and it wasn’t in Room 303. He surprised me with His great goodness giving me more than I was expecting. But my lack of anticipation for His goodness almost ruined His surprise. I almost let my thoughts completely steal away the joy He had planned for me! I don’t ever want to miss any of His goodness and blessings for me. I always want to anticipate His goodness.
Lord, I thank you for your goodness, your incredible love for us, and for the mere fact that you want us to experience a relationship with you. O Lord, you are so much for us to take in. Thank you! And thank you for your servant David, who extolled your goodness, love, protection, and provision in almost every psalm he wrote. What a beautiful example of the kind of relationship I want to have with you. Lord, may I never miss out on another one of your blessings by failing to anticipate your goodness. Thank you for your patience with me. In your precious Son’s name I pray, amen.