“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” (Acts 1:9-11).
I wonder what the disciples were thinking as Jesus disappeared from sight. I can imagine that it went something along the lines of “if only he would come back”, “I don’t want you to go”, “how will we cope now?” They hadn’t had time to process what was happening when they had an angelic visitation. These angels didn’t seem to do too well on the empathy front! They asked the bereft disciples why they were still looking into heaven. “Well duh! Why do you think?”might well have been their response. But actually those angels were pointing them to a new reality. Jesus had gone but the Holy Spirit was coming.
My grandfather used to tell me that when his boat came in he would buy me a doll. I was very small at the time and didn’t know that he didn’t actually have a boat and I used to regularly ask him if his boat had arrived. What I didn’t know was that this was just a kind of magical/wishful thinking – when I am rich I will buy you nice things.
We can all so easily fall into a kind of magical thinking that goes something like this “if only x would happen then y will (magically) happen too. If only I get that job, get married, have more time, have more money, more resources for my project… or when I am well again , when the children are at school THEN I will be satisfied, I will be secure, I will spend time praying and reading my bible, I will give more, I will be able to achieve what God has called me to, I will be free to help others etc What is your if only? If only I ………………. then I ……………………… (insert your own).
The disciples were now faced with a life without the physical presence of Jesus, faced with carrying on the mission without him. The angels were encouraging them not to stand looking wishfully at the sky. They didn’t want them to get stuck there.
Sadly we can get stuck in our if only’s. Some of them are really painful to us, some are simply pragmatic but whatever they may be that is not a good place to stay. There is so much more for us than living under a cloud of regret or disappointment.
The disciples went on to Jerusalem where in the upper room they were filled with the promised Holy Spirit. They now knew that Jesus was with them through the Holy Spirit. In the Isaiah 7:14 Jesus’ birth is foretold and that he shall be called Immanuel which means God with us.
Jesus did indeed live among men but now that he is ascended into heaven he has sent his promised Holy Spirit to each and every one of us. Having Jesus with us in the now is the antidote to magical thinking. We don’t need to wait until x, y or z happens, Jesus is with us NOW! That means that we have all we need for life and godliness now (2 Pet 1:3). In Jesus we have the answer to every aching void, every disappointed hope, every sense of constriction or limitation. God himself has promised to be with us. He will never leave us. Because of that all the resources of God are available to me – all his love, all his power, all his wisdom etc… in fact all of who He is, all of His attributes, all of His mercies. We have already got everything we need right now.
How will I ever find fulfillment in the future if I don’t find fulfillment in Him now? I am learning to take my if onlys to Jesus and to enjoy Him in the present. He truly is everything.
I don’t want to miss out on what He has for me now because I am waiting for my boat to come in.
Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash