Sometimes the hype doesn’t match reality.
We’re a road-tripping family, and one of our trips took us camping with our kids at Yellowstone National Park. For the record, I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic camper. It’s true that lounging in front of a blazing fire admiring brilliant stars overhead, listening to the wind soughing in the tops of the pine trees, roasting a marshmallow on a stick, is indeed lovely.
But the gargantuan amount of work it takes to get to that moment – packing the car to the gills with all sorts of equipment, carrying water back and forth at the campsite, digging for the box of matches you know you stuck somewhere, walking half a mile every time you have to go to the bathroom (especially fun in the dead of night) – is not quite as lovely. My preferred camping experience would be pitching the tent a few yards from a restaurant on one side and a fully equipped bathroom on the other side. And the tent should look like this.
Yellowstone is, of course, indescribably gorgeous and awe-inspiring. It has five distinct areas, called countries, and you need to spend one day in each country. My husband and I had stoked the kids up about the various wonders they were about to see, particularly the grand-daddy of geysers, Old Faithful, which is a Big Deal. It’s so important it has its own hotel in the park, Old Faithful Inn, expensively out of reach for those of us who must sleep in a tent, far from a bathroom.
So there we were, gathered with hundreds of tourists from around the world, all with cameras ready (remember those objects we wore around our necks before smart phones?), jockeying for the best viewing angle. I remember a lot of Germans in particular. The excitement level was high, like waiting for the bride, or the end of the world. Right on time, we were treated to the famous water spout, spurting high into the air. Cameras clicking, tourists expressing amazement. In the moment of respectful silence that followed Old Faithful’s performance, came my son’s voice. “Is that it?”
The tone of the question was, “Is that all there is? Is this what we came a thousand miles to see? Seriously?” In his defense, he was eleven years old. He must have been expecting a lot more, perhaps on the order of Star Wars, one of his childhood obsessions. But surrounded by the crowd of awed Germans, I cringed. I was hoping none of them understood English. But I doubt it.
Actually, as a woman my age, I have my own case of “is-that-it?-itis”. In my twenties and thirties, everything and anything seemed possible. But the number of possibilities contracts with each passing year. Some of my expectations, hopes, and personal goals haven’t been met. Life has taken some twists and turns that weren’t on my wish list, crowding out some things that were on the list. “Is that it, God?” I say. “Seriously? I was expecting something different. I was expecting more fun and less pain. I was expecting to see all my hard work paying off in this moment, but it’s not turning out how I’d hoped. Is this really it?”
In these disappointing moments, I’m learning to hear God’s answer. “This is what I’ve chosen to give you. I have my reasons. Your job is to pursue me and know me in the midst of what I’ve given you. Take the time to appreciate what is here before you, right now, to find its beauty, to trust in my wisdom, and to grow your roots deep into me.”
I’d love to see Old Faithful once again, with my whole family, including kids, in-laws, and grandchildren (family vacation, anyone? Maybe we could spring for Old Faithful Inn). But even if that hope doesn’t materialize, I look forward to something that will go way beyond hype and expectation. It will be the day I see Jesus face to face, and I look at him with amazement and not a hint of disappointment, and say, “Is this it? Wow!!”