“There is something new every day if you look for it” (Hannah Hurnard).
ONE OF OUR MOST REMARKABLE ENDOWMENTS IS THE ABILITY TO FORETASTE PLEASURE. The literal meaning of “anticipate” is to “take before,” and we have it within us to look ahead (at least a little way) and take enjoyment from our experiences before they arrive. To make this choice and welcome the future with joy is an act of courage. It is also an act of considerable wisdom.
Not everything about the future will be pleasant, of course. But even so, anticipation is a wise choice. As a positive character quality, anticipation gives us a more constructive outlook. By believing the best and acting on our hopes, we find a better future than if we expected the worst. For this reason, Albert Schweitzer, who spent his adult life dealing with life’s rough edges, said, “My knowledge is pessimistic, but my willing and hoping are optimistic.”
How then can we heighten our anticipation and relish our future? Although it seems contradictory, the primary thing we can do is pay more attention to what happens in the present moment. As I write these lines, for example, it is early spring and the trees outside my window are beginning to bud and blossom. It would be difficult to look at these things thoughtfully and not anticipate (or “take before”) the greater, more fully developed beauty they’ll have tomorrow morning. So whatever death and decay there may be, let’s also see the evidence that many good things in the world are moving, growing, and reaching forward. If we “taste” deeply the present truth about these things, our minds will tingle with anticipation for what lies ahead.
Even when we have no idea what will happen tomorrow, there are still reasons for us to anticipate it. The intriguing mystery of it all — the very possibility that tomorrow’s path may take a surprising turn — ought to energize us. If life could be completely planned and programmed, we would be safe perhaps, but in our hearts we know that we want more than safety. Like the inquisitive, once-upon-a-time children we used to be, we want to learn more than we know and do more than we’ve done. There’s a bit of the adventurer in all of us.
Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road, or a secret gate.
(J. R. R. Tolkien)