I’ve always thought of myself as something of a cheerleader. Not the pom-pom waving, pyramid building, performance artists kind you’d find on the sidelines at football games–that would require going to a football game and jumping around– two things I’m not known for. My cheerleading is more in the form of casual encouragement. You know…a short uplifting text or note of support. An open smile and genuine compliment in conversation. My goal is to try and believe in people, to see their potential and encourage them to go for it. But while I like cheering others on, I never really thought about God doing that with us. Sometimes I think I picture God as the Queen of England. Not a well-coiffed nonagenarian who’s prone to wearing bright hats, sensible shoes, and carrying a matching handbag, but as a very reserved and rigid being who is uninterested in overt displays of emotion, especially the kind of overenthusiastic outbursts one might witness at a sporting event.
But then I read the following passage from Romans 12:
Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Romans 12:11-12
Paul’s exuberance in serving God, and his commendation that all God’s followers adopt a like attitude made me wonder. What if God is a cheerleader? As God’s people, Scripture tells us that we can embody some of his characteristics. (Gen. 1:26) We can cultivate good fruit (Matt. 7:17), like the fruits of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22) And if we are to serve God with great gusto and cheer, perhaps those qualities come to us from God himself. Look at how The Message puts it:
I love the dichotomy here between being burned out and keeping ourselves fueled and aflame. Sometimes, in our quest to keep busy, we douse the flames of our faith. We get so run down, even in service to God, that our flame goes out. But Paul tells the early church members to be alert–to be on guard for burnout and to do those things that add fuel to our spiritual fire. And with this we are to remain cheerfully expectant. It’s interesting that the word which comes before expectant is cheerfully. What does that even look like?
Ten years ago, we went on our first extended family trip to Disney World. Our boys were about 2 and 4 years old, and while they understood in theory that they were going to be doing something really cool, they didn’t quite get it. To help them understand how special this trip was, we put up a Countdown to Disney calendar in their bedroom. Each night, before they went to bed, we pulled off one more page from the calendar. Even if the boys couldn’t understand exactly what the “happiest place on Earth” was, they were pumped that they were going in only 10 more sleeps! By the time we finally got to “1 more sleep “, they were downright giddy. When I think about their enthusiasm over a trip to central Florida, it helps me to understand the phrase cheerfully expectant more fully.
Paul is essentially telling us that to be cheerfully expectant is to be downright giddy about what God is going to do in our lives. More than that, I think God acts as a cheerleader pumping us up for it. When I read this passage not too long ago, it was as if I heard God clapping and calling, “You go, girl! You’ve got this!! Come on! You can do it!!!”
Hearing that voice, that enthusiasm, that cheer–it empowered me. It helped me to be cheerfully expectant about the work God had done, is doing, and will do in my life. And it made me want to share this encouragement with others, which I promptly did through the power of texting.
The gospel of Matthew tells a story about the healing of a blind man. When Jesus saw the man, he told his disciples to call the man forward. The disciples respond by saying this to the man:
I love this! Tall about cheerful expectation!! The disciples called to the blind man–they didn’t whisper, they didn’t lean down and murmur, they called (i.e. spoke loudly) to him. The disciples were excited! They knew something amazing was about to happen. It was kind of like an awards show, in that a name was called for a big prize and lots of people cheered. But this awards show was much better produced than any awards show we might watch. Jesus called the man’s name and the disciples acted as God’s cheerleaders, leading the man to the one who could give both healing and restoration. Doesn’t it make you want to clap, too?
This is the cheerful expectation that we are supposed to live into, as well. Like the disciples, we are to go into the world seeking out those whom Jesus is calling. We’re supposed to be cheerleaders, encouraging them and assuring them that Jesus is calling. But we are not doing this alone. God is there, right in the middle of the action with us, cheering us onward as we seek to share his message of love and hope and grace with others. So wherever you go this week, whatever life puts in your path, however God is asking you to serve him, listen. Can you hear God cheering you on? He’s calling to you, encouraging…”You go, my Beloved one! You’ve got this!!”
Blessings and Peace,