What do you look forward to? For me, I look forward to getting home from work, and being with my family. Another time, it’s seeing a friend or far-off relative I haven’t seen in a long time. I remember my widowed great-grandmother saying she was looking forward to dying — she missed her husband so much, and she looked forward to seeing him again. She isn’t alone in that kind of thinking. In one of my favorite Christian songwriter’s songs, he’s looking forward to seeing God. In the song Smile, from the album Run the Earth, Watch the Sky, Chris Rice sings:
‘Cause I just want to be with You
I just want this waiting to be over
I just want to be with You
And it helps to know the Day is getting closer
Every minute takes an hour
Every inch feels like a mile
Til I won’t have to imagine
And I finally get to see You smile.
I can relate to this song, not because I’m looking forward to dying or Judgement Day, but because of the feeling of anticipation I have about meditation — the few minutes when it’s just me, and God. The time when we sit together is so peaceful, so refreshing — yeah, even when my thoughts are trying to stir up all kinds of mental weather, being with God in that quiet place makes it seem like we’re on the inside, and all those thoughts are on the outside. We can see the weather through the window, but we are safe and warm inside.
Yes, I know that an important part of our meditation practice is practicing being right here, right now, not thinking about some future state. If you live in the tomorrow, or in the yesterday, you’re missing out on today. And yet, another part of our meditation practice trains us to look at our thoughts — put some space between us and them, and observe what we’re thinking without getting caught up in being those thoughts. If you use that technique, and observe what kinds of things you’re looking forward to, you might just learn something.
- You might learn that you’re spending more time living in the future than you should.
- You might also see a pattern to the kinds of things that you perceive as happy. Then you can come back to the here and now, and enjoy the differences. For example, I’m looking forward to going back to the Mohave Desert — it has things I can only see and do there. But, here and now, I can enjoy a walk on the beach or in the redwoods. Or,
- You can use the patterns you’ve observed to make some changes in your life, so that the here and now is different, maybe containing more elements from those anticipated experiences.
Our meditation practice is grounded firmly in the here and now, but I’d like to suggest that an occasional foray into the anticipation of tomorrow and not here can be healthy, an opportunity for growth.
Oh, and if someone mentions in conversation that they’re looking forward to the afterlife, and maybe want to hurry it up, you might tell them about meditation. Remember, God loves us. He’ll be with us right now. No waiting, and no dying required.
Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on March 9, 2019.