When I was young, time wasn’t something I thought about. Days felt the same as I went about routines and responsibilities. I lived in the rhythm of doing the next thing.
Having watched many years vanish, I yearn for my life to no longer be a blur of busyness without meaningful moments and memories. I desire to enjoy the days God has graciously given me. Disappointments, hardships, and pain won’t disappear, but I want to notice the gifts alongside them.
My joy or lack of it stems from how I think. Now is a good time to trade in misguided thoughts for gratitude, to reset my brain. How can I savor my life?
Two things happened amidst my musing. First, I read a novel called, I Must Betray You, by Ruta Sepetys. A Romanian teenager gives a captivating account of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s violent regime. The historical events in the book are true while some details and characters are imagined.
The dark, disheartened, diminished life of the Romanian people in 1989 has impacted me. They were surveilled, controlled and cut off from the rest of the world. For hours, they waited in line for small amounts of essentials like flour. I can’t bite into a banana now without thinking of Christian, the main character. He’d once tasted a tiny sweet bite of banana and thereafter was obsessed with the fruit.
This book has opened my eyes to our abundance. If the everyday things I complain about disappeared suddenly, I’d be devastated. Before I complain, I’ll think twice.
The second event was a fascinating conversation with a young man who walks on our neighborhood trail. I noticed him recently, just as I approached the path. We’d greeted each other many times before and I’d been dying to talk with him, to find out what makes him tick. He sticks out from the other folks with his shining broad smile, his confident posture, and put-together attire. I had to think fast when he approached me with that big grin. “Good morning, why do you always look so sharp?” What a dumb thing to say; it’s all I could find at the moment.
Pause… “Um, Jesus,” as he swung a pointing hand to the sky.
“I knew it, we’re brother and sister!” I’d like to hear your story when you have time.”
It was getting hot fast; I wondered if it would be weird to suggest we walk together.
Then he said, “Let’s walk and talk.”
He talked non-stop for 30 minutes. Much he said was over my head, having to do with algorithms and online optimization.
He shared stories from his childhood and the unique experience of being raised by his grandparents. “I learned the important things at my grandfather’s knee. I absorbed their traditional way of life.”
He pointed to the path where we stood and, swinging his arms wide, he said, “Just look at what we have here.” The grass was damp from rain, the trees were a dark lush green, and the flower beds, full of bright new pink and purple blooms. It was beautiful.
“People are unhappy, overworked, and stuck in unreasonable expectations and demands. Their competitive, compulsive, and consumptive lifestyles make them unhealthy and miserable. They don’t cook good food for their families or value relationships with their children.”
Listening to my new acquaintance awakened me to what matters most.
Reading the book and sharing the conversation with a fellow walker weren’t random events. The Lord was moving in my heart and helping me focus on contentment and joy.
How can I sum up my thoughts?
Live in the present.
It’s never a good idea to long for the future or ache for the past. Our life is today. We miss the good of today if our minds linger elsewhere.
Focus on heaven.
Wake up each day grateful for the freedom Jesus has purchased for us that’s greater than the world can offer.
For as long as we are here, we do not live in any permanent city, but are looking for the city that is to come.Hebrews 13:14, The Voice
Now is the time to practice heaven. What are the bits of heaven in my life today? Loved ones, magnolia blossoms, new friends. The Wonder of a New Friend
What we really long for is heaven. We were created for heaven.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
― C.S. Lewis
Enjoy the blessings we take for granted.
When Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he’d lived long enough to learn he wasn’t in control of his life and whatever amount of earthly treasures he obtained, they wouldn’t last. He exhorts us to enjoy today, to revel in the blessings we overlook.
There is nothing better than for people to eat and drink and to see the good in their hard work. These beautiful gifts, I realized too, come from God’s hand. For who can eat and drink and enjoy the good things if not me? To those who seek to please God, He gives wisdom and knowledge and joyfulness, but to those who are wicked, God keeps them busy harvesting and storing up for those in whom He delights.Ecclesiastes 2:24-26
Care for others.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, joy is mentioned sixteen times. Paul’s joy is found in the welfare and blessings of others. While enchained, he rejoices over the story of Jesus and the soundness of Christians he cares about. Absent from his joy list are creature comforts or personal blessings. He is in prison, remember. There is no complaining in this letter. Oh to be like Paul.
Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice!Philippians 4:4