None of us knows what the future holds. But we do know the values we hold dear—honesty, integrity, love, compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance. As we raise our children, we instill these values. As adults, we model these values whether we win or lose, succeed or fail, sink or swim. Watching us, they learn, and, as they go forward into their futures, they will bring these values to their own decisions. If each of us does this, we will leave the world a better brighter place for our having been here.
Sometimes joy is a matter of perspective. It’s reaching down and being grateful for it all, the mess, the euphoria, the triumphs, and the tragedies. Grateful to be here, to have a voice, to have people to care about, to have a chance to make a difference. Joy in it all is a choice.
In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen unpacks this further:
Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.
What is the promise behind the circumstances that threaten to steal your joy? Is there something hopeful there? Seeing that promise may just be the key you are looking for.
For better or worse, we have pushed a collective pause button. Our world just got narrower on the outside. Perhaps this is the time to broaden it on the inside. Enjoy the moments. Reach out to people to check in and tell them you care. Savor the little things. Pause and reflect.
What do you think heaven looks like? Certainly, if we can see there, it is a place of great beauty and marvelous complexity where we marvel at God’s creation. If we can hear there, music that stirs the soul must be the score. And so on through our senses
But what if we are not corporeal in heaven and don’t have senses per se? What then? Perhaps it is a place of harmony, of communion, with everyone different but united in common purpose.
These are good things, yes? Appreciating beauty in God’s creation, enjoying music that stirs the soul, being so present in our bodies that we marvel at its systems? And, of course, communion, harmony, peace? These are good things.
Perhaps, today, we can take time to bring a bit of heaven to earth. Pause to admire the beauty around us, savor, marvel, be astonished. And then with our senses full and renewed, have courage to bring peace and harmony to our day.
Can you remember what you were worried about this date last year? Often, we forget yesteryear’s worries. Even more often, what we were worried about never comes to pass. It was wasted energy. All those sleepless nights and anxiety were spent on the thought of something that happened only in our imaginations. And, studies show, constant worry is bad for our health, ironically, giving us more to worry about.
Today, focus on your tasks at hand. Today has enough worries of its own. We don’t need to pile on tomorrow’s worries or the next day’s. The more we immerse ourselves in concrete action, the less our minds have time to churn away on what might or, most likely, might never be.
Sometimes our eyes and hearts are focussed so far in the distance, that we fail to see what is right in front of us. The people we spend our days with, the beauty surrounding us, the opportunities we have to make a difference. When we zoom in to the detail, the richness of the particular moment can be astounding and surprising. What a beautiful, remarkable world we live in. So full of complexity. Each person we see is as full of contradictions and surprises as we are ourselves. Each living or created thing we see is so full of detail.
Long-term goals are great, but what a shame if we don’t appreciate each step along the way. We may work side by side with someone but barely know their name let alone what their hopes and dreams are. We may be so busy moving forward that we are blind to the heartache of even the people we live with. It is easy to speed through life with eyes averted like people descending in an elevator focussed only on the floor numbers.
Today take time today to enjoy the journey, the mysteries unfolding all around you, the people who share your path, and all the beautiful and startling things right here, right now.
Like, for example, who can not stop and be amazed at this little beagle shaking its jowls, its great ears flopping to the beat, its sturdy paws holding on in front but shifting with its wagging tail in back, the gorgeous landscape behind it? What a fascinating little miracle, right here. Just this.
Today is the day. Seize it, use it, enjoy it, fill it up with meaning and truth. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Now. Today. Here. This moment right here, right now, holds all your opportunities for action.
Disappointment hurts. Perhaps you tried to help somebody, and they rebuffed your attempt or you thought something was going to work out in your favor, but it didn’t. It’s easy to get defeated. But when we ground ourselves in the present moment and consider all the opportunities here, we can move past disappointment and hope for a better resolution next time. We can begin to build again.
Does anything keep you from plunging into life? Whether you savor it, delight in it, enjoy it, or not, time will keep moving. You will get older; opportunities will pass. Perhaps it is time to say: I will savor this day; I will delight in these people; I will enjoy my time here while I can.