I’ve been incubating an idea for several weeks. It needs to be said, and I will feel better when I’ve expressed it, but it might sound sloppy, so bear with me. The idea I’ve been germinating is this: Why the heck does it happen that when you set a goal or declare that you “Will do something”, that you are immediately faced with situations that make your declaration impossible? Does the Universe have it in for us? Does God like to play tricks on us? Does He like to make a fool of me? Case in point: I declared that this past Christmas season, “I will be happy, and find happiness in each and every day. I WILL look for joy and make it happen daily.” No sooner did I thrust my spear in the fertile soil at the battlefront of cheery goodness than I received a phone call. Dad was facing yet another very serious surgery to alleviate a blood clot. And shortly after that, another conversation with my son that seriously shook me and dashed any hope of joy; it was the kind of thing that lots of nearly-adult sons find themselves in the throes of. And I lost some sleep that night. Well let me tell you: the joy seeking ended pretty quickly right then and there. It seemed very silly to look for frivolous things to be happy about. Life is serious, and while it didn’t exactly kick me in the teeth, it did affect two men who I love dearly. So back to my question. The timing. Does Life hang around behind palm trees eavesdropping, and then jump out at you when She hears that you’ve Made A Declaration, all with the idea of making you feel silly? Is She cunning, and does She fling her pixie dust of health threats and legal battles and financial woes discriminately, when we are at our lowest? And then twinkle away, giggling wickedly?
The more I’ve pondered this question, the more I think it’s not so. In fact, I don’t think so at all. You can accuse me of being Pollyanna if you like. It’s one epithet that’s been hurled at me, which I own and welcome. Like Pollyanna, I think that you can look at any situation as you want to look at it, find the silver lining, and that makes all the difference. It makes life better. My sister disagrees; she hates it when I sing in the morning. But I think it’s a good way to think.
So here’s what I’m thinking. I made that declaration To Be Happy or to Seek Little Sparkly Joys, and when bad things happened, it gave me even more reason to know that my happiness does not depend on my circumstances. Paul wrote encouraging letters while he was in a dark, stinky prison. Horatio Spafford wrote “It is Well with My Soul” after losing his wife and children in a horrific accident. Those people understood that happiness is a separate condition, unrelated to circumstances.
So my conclusion is this: Life is not a Sneaky Woman. Life is a whole bunch of experiments. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth, and face the day with its opportunities for helping the people we meet as we’re headed to work or to golf or to the grocery store. Happily, some of those folks are the ones we’re related to, and who we love. We get to do things for and with them. Like drive to their house, watch a movie in the evening, then drive them to the hospital and give them a kiss and say, “See you this afternoon” as the nurse wheels them into the OR.
My favorite definition of prayer is this: God, the Creator of you and me, gives us the chance to participate in His Creation by answering our prayers. He’s like a really great Dad who says to us, “Okay! Because you asked, it will happen just as you suggested.”With a Dad like that, the circumstances that whirl around me don’t seem quite as staggering.