February 5, 2007

Anticipation Isn’t What it Use to Be
by Pastor George Van Alstine

They say, “Anticipation is half the fun.â€? But after years of discovering that the other half never seems to measure up, even anticipation loses some of its appeal.

Take the Super Bowl, for instance. This is billed as the greatest sports event of the year. All the National Football League teams pour money into the finest athletes they can sign up on their payroll, add millions to attract top-notch coaching staffs, market their teams in every way possible. This entire effort is aimed toward what happens in the contest that takes place in early February on a Miami field in a stadium that seats 75,000. Television brings the on-field battle into millions of homes.

People who make their money reporting on sports fill the pages of newspapers and dominate radio and television shows. In a build-up toward Super Sunday, they argue endlessly about which quarterback is best, whether one team will find new defenses for the other’s passing attack, whether a particular coach will choke under pressure.

Las Vegas smells the money and adds to the hype. People are willing to bet on everything from the projected point spread to how well a particular player’s sprained ankle will heal. The casinos are happy to take all bets.

Other industries have also found ways to cash in on the Super Bowl. The half-time show is a major production by itself. This year it featured “The Artist Formerly Called Prince,â€? with his outlandish style. Advertisers for everything from walnuts to cell phones proudly premiered their most creative commercials for these most-expensive time slots ($2.6 million for 30 seconds). People who don’t know a punt from a bunt gathered in friends’ living rooms for elaborate “Super Bowl Parties.â€?

Talk about anticipation!

And what did the reality turn out to be, after so much anticipation? Rain! Not just a sprinkle; a downpour. This Super Bowl should have been renamed “The Mud Bowl.â€? World-class athletes lost their footing and, at times, looked like average high school players. There were a record number of fumbles, all but one recovered by the other team. This was not good football.

The much-heralded new commercials were mostly duds. Critics panned the majority of them the next day.

Prince? Well, he was . . . . Prince. He gets high marks for showmanship, in spite of the (purple?) rain, but that has nothing to do with football.

So all in all, the Super Bowl failed to deliver what we anticipated. This has happened with such predictability over the years, that I’ve done my best to de-hype the event. I didn’t root for either team, and I didn’t expect it to be a very exciting game. Lowered expectations is my defense against dashed hopes.

But may the Lord deliver me from ever letting my anticipation burnout carry over into my spiritual life! Because the truth is, we can never out-anticipate God. His promises to us build our hopes, and our hopes can never become bigger than his reality. For me, the best Biblical statement of this is in the words of the Apostle Paul:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.â€? (I Corinthians 2:9)

The day I walk through the Gates of Splendor will be my Super Sunday, or Magnificent Monday, or Tremendous Tuesday, or Wonderful Wednesday, or . . . . That’s my faith in the God whose commercials can be trusted.