Growing up, my family had a lot of traditions. Easter, Christmas, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, even first day of school, we had traditions for everything. I tried to count them once. I lost count around twenty, which doesn't sound like that many until you realise that for each of those 'major' traditions, there were a bunch of little ones.
One of my absolute favourites was always watching the sunrise at Wellington Point on Easter Sunday morning.
Dad would wake up the family while it was still dark, we’d get dressed in the clothes we’d laid out on the floor the night before and then all pile into our Tarago to drive to Wellington Point where we’d watch the sunrise – that very physical reminder that Jesus, the Son, rose again. Then we’d have breakfast, climb trees (some siblings more adventurous, and coordinated, that I doing both at once) and usually walk out along the jetty before heading off to church.
Each bit of it became a tradition in itself. The setting out of our clothes the night before, laying them out on the floor like a person just evaporated out of them; Dad waking us up by turning our bedroom lights on and asking “who wants to go to Wellington Point!” in the same tone each year; the same table for breakfast, the same Bible passage we read, the same thrill when the sun – which I was sure some years it would be too overcast to see – finally broke through the clouds and blinded us with its brilliance.
And the same fear, every single year, that dad had slept through his alarm and we’d miss the sunrise.
Yup, every single year.
I’d lie awake in the gradually lightening darkness, listening for his alarm for what felt like hours, telling myself that he’d never missed it before but still anxious he would this year. No doubt he checked the exact time the sun would rise each year beforehand and knew exactly how long it would take to get to Wellington Point – we were never going to miss it – but as a kid, I had no idea about all that. I’d just watch the sky getting lighter and lighter and convince myself he’d forgotten.
He never did. In the twenty-one years I lived at home, he never once missed a sunrise.
I was thinking about that as I watched the sunrise this year, not from Wellington Point but from my backyard. Thinking about how many times I think God has forgotten something, or get upset like he has, because it looks like he has. He promises he’ll do something and I get all prepared, setting out my figurative clothing, then, full of faith, settle down to wait. And I’m fine with that.
Until the sky starts to lighten.
Things start happening around me and I know that God is about to come through with his promise. Only he doesn’t. Nothing happens. So I sit there, certain he hasn’t forgotten me, terrified he has. Knowing that he’s never let me down before, that he always keeps his promises, but wondering why it’s taking so long. And if maybe I should be doing something to speed it up.
Funny the things that go through your mind while you’re waiting. The alarm’s broken. The power’s gone off. He forgot to set the alarm. He’s forgotten what day it is.
Or, in the case of God’s promises… He’s forgotten me. I heard wrong, it wasn’t really a promise. It’s not going to happen. I can’t wait for him any longer, if it’s going to happen, I have to do it myself. It’s too late now, I’m going to miss out…
The wait feels like an eternity.
But then, at the perfect time – the time he planned all along – the lights come on and there God stands, asking if we’re ready to go. “Who wants to go change the world with me!” Not hurried, not rushed, not anxious that we’ll miss the chance because we waited – just ready.
I doubt Dad ever lay in bed, staring at the lightening sky, worried we’d miss the sunrise. He didn’t have to. He knew what time it did. He knew more than I did, just like God does.
God doesn’t sit in heaven, watching what’s going on around us, worried we’ll miss our moment. He doesn’t need to. He knows exactly the right time, and that’s when he’ll act.
Maybe one year, Dad might have forgotten to set his alarm, but God never will. If God has made you a promise, he will keep it.
Something else I learned from sunrises? It always takes longer than I think it will. But it always rises.
And every new day brings new hope.
Trust God, not the lightening skies. He will always keep his promises.