Practice Joyful Living
By Annette Cook, Community of Hope Lay Chaplain
The other day I was having a conversation with a 90+ year old friend which made me reflect. First, he was worried that he hadn’t done enough in his life to merit a place in Heaven despite being a good man who has brought joy and happiness to others during his life and made the world a better place. His faith has strengthened him and defined how he lived. He is not a perfect person but one who still strives to follow his God. Yet he sees God with a ledger with the pluses and minuses calculated continually. My friend has forgotten forgiveness and forgetting leaving him with only a striving to have his good actions outweigh his bad. And since he is bound to a wheelchair in a room he is very limited in those actions.
What if he could see God differently? See God as a father as loving as my friend was with his own children; willing to erase forgiven transgressions over and over again and embrace his children with joy? This would mean we strive to do good, love God and our neighbors joyfully, not fearfully, trusting that at our physical ends there will be an eternity of love.
Let’s not forget the thief on the cross next to Jesus who didn’t get baptized, didn’t publically profess his faith and be received into a church, didn’t confess his sins and ask for forgiveness yet he went to be with Jesus that day. We are no better or worse than that thief so let us learn from his life and death not to be afraid of our own.
The second thing my friend and I discussed was how we could enjoy our lives while there is so much suffering in this world. We feel guilty enjoying life because we have so much by comparison to so many in this world and because the ideas we’ve inherited both from certain Biblical passages and from America’s Puritan strain tell us that we are not to ‘be of the world’ but only think on Godly things.
Well, it finally dawned on me, a very slow learner, that if God could create this universe and call it good that we are supposed to respond to His creation by enjoying it and by appreciating the good, the happy, the beautiful, the helpful. Those men and women who went into the desert to find God were following their hearts but their way was not a better way, only different. We can, whether we are in a nursing home or a mansion, enjoy the life we have been given, caring for and helping as fully as we can those who are in need but not allowing the needs of the world to lead us into a life of fear, guilt, and discouragement.
Anne Frank said, “At such moments, I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains.”