It happens at a different point in time for each of us. For some, the realization comes much earlier than it should. For some it happens later in life, but it eventually happens for everyone. Whether it’s an illness, or an accident, or divorce, or addiction or a natural disaster, we all must eventually stare reality in the face.
Life is fragile.
Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed by the brokenness of this world, I think back to those precious, beautiful days of childhood when all I needed to feel safe and secure was to know that my mom and dad were asleep on the other side of the wall. I knew that if I needed to I could slip out of bed and climb in between them and all would be right in the world once again.
Now I am the parent, and nearly every night I find myself waking up to my sons clumsy, sleepy movements as he tries to climb into bed with us. The second he is snug between mom and dad, usually with a leg shoved under me and an arm draped across my face, he drifts back to sleep, reassured that his world is secure.
Oftentimes, after he has fallen back to sleep, I find myself restless, plagued by worries, anxieties, stresses and what ifs. None of which I can control, a reality that just causes more fear. As I lie awake worrying, my son sleeps, blissfully unaware.
I can’t ever go back to being that innocent, naive, blissfully unaware child that was certain of her safety as long as her parents were surrounding her. And I cannot keep my kids from eventually growing up and realizing that life is, indeed, fragile. Nor can I protect them from ever feeling any hurt or pain. That might be the hardest reality to accept as a parent, our inability to protect our children from the evils of this world.
And if this were the end, if these realities were the only realities, then the evils of this world might just win. I might just not ever be able to drag myself out of bed again, I might have to give up because the weight of the problems in this world would be too much to bear. I might have to take my family and run away to a cabin in the most remote place I could imagine and lock all the doors to try to keep my precious ones safe.
Thank goodness there is another reality.
There is a God who loves us and who created us to live abundantly and love deeply. He does not promise that there will not be struggle and heartbreak and pain, but he does promise that through all of those things, he will carry us.
I tend to forget this reality all to often. I tend to see the reality of my situation, of my health, of my limitations, of the awful things happening in this world, and I get overwhelmed. I lose hope. I forget to trust. And worst of all, I stop living. I go through the motions, I function, sort of, but I am not living and loving and laughing and dancing and experiencing the fullness of this life that God gave me.
And then I look at my boys.
I see their childlike faith, their innocent trust and their ability to find absolute JOY in the smallest of things.
And I am ashamed because my children are living life the way that God intended for it to be and I am not.
Today I thought about the silly tradition of New Years resolutions. I thought about how every year I make some ridiculous, overly detailed, lofty resolution for myself and then by Feb 1 I have forgotten what my resolution even was. I sat on the bed and asked my Jesus what kind of goal I could even set for myself this year with two young kids and health issues that never seem to go away, how could I possibly plan for anything let alone set a goal and keep it?
The answer was immediate.
That was it.
I waited, thinking surely there was more.
PURSUE is a verb. It means to follow someone or something to catch them.
JOY is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness.
So my New Years resolution is to PURSUE JOY, to CATCH HAPPINESS.
Sounds silly, frivolous even. But it resonated with me on a very deep level and tears ran down my face.
I love my life and I am very blessed in so many different ways, but the last few years have beaten me up, worn me down, and left me struggling to find joy more often than I’d care to admit. I didn’t mean to lose my joy, I didn’t mean to stop laughing, life just sort of snuck up from behind and stole them from me. Of course I have moments of wonderful happiness and my boys bring me laughter and joy every day, but the joy, the laughter, that comes from a soul that is alive and well, not weary and waiting for the next bad thing to happen, that was gone. And I had stopped searching for it, assuming that I would have to learn how to live without it. I spent most of the day in tears today, realizing how much that the past four years has stolen from me. Realizing that I have allowed myself to stop hoping for anything better, resigning myself to the fact this was my life now. And always would be.
But there were those words again…
I was expecting to cut out sugar or stop eating fast food. Those things would be a piece of cake compared to this.
Today God used one of my very best friends to remind me who I am, and that although illness and struggle and grief have stolen so much from me, who I am is not gone, but I have to fight to get her back. That’s what this resolution is all about. To pursue, to catch… those words are a call to action. Calling ME to action. I can’t sit around waiting for healing and total health before I do it. I can’t wait for life to be easy to do it. I can’t tell God I’ll do it when I have more energy, or time or when the world isn’t such a mess. I can’t wait for things to be perfect before I start living again.
So, in 19 minutes 2013 begins and so does my pursuit.
And as I begin to feel overwhelmed, wondering how I can pursue and live a lifestyle of joy when so much still seems difficult, my dads words from one of his final sermons are running on repeat through my mind.
“Anger and sorrow, joy and hope, can be intermingled.”
Life does not have to be perfect to have joy. Difficulties and heartbreak will still happen and those emotions are very real, but God promises that he is our comforter and that his mercies are new every morning, and that his JOY is our STRENGTH.
What a spectacular promise.
What a wonderful God.
No two people have the exact same struggles or stresses or anxieties or fears. But we all have the same God who offers us the same gift of abundant life filled with joy and peace, if we just choose to trust him. I would challenge you as this new year starts to make a conscious decision to pursue joy, no matter what your circumstances may be. Pursue it, catch it, and see how your life changes.
Here’s to 2013 and pursuing joy in a fragile world.