Have you ever noticed how excitable children can be?
How quick they are to celebrate the seemingly mundane moments of life?
Nearly ever afternoon, joy-filled squeals erupt within my house, as I pull into the driveway. “DADDY’S HOME!” The point here isn’t my royal greatness in the kingdom of fatherhood, rather the ability of a child to become instantly ecstatic with celebration. But it isn’t just my arrival, it’s moms, sunny days, bike rides in the park, even apple sauce. A child’s capacity to celebrate the smallest moments of life is limitless.
It seems the older and more mature we become, our capacity to celebrate the seemingly small and mundane moments of life diminishes tremendously. Is it that we’re becoming smarter and wiser or duller and numb? In our sophistication we can discern numerous reasons to help deflate the enthusiasm and excitement out of just about anything or anyone.
“Because children have abounding vitality,” writes G.K. Chesterton in his outstanding work Orthodoxy, “because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy.” He concludes with the penetrating thought, “for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Lately, I’ve been reflecting about how I can cultivate more of these childlike (or should I say Godlike) qualities in my own life. The following are a few small things that are helping me to move in this direction:
- Live Today
Many seem to live with the illusion that joy will come someday when their current circumstances change. Days spent daydreaming about how much better things will be when they get married, have children, get rid of their children, get grandchildren, etc. Others get lost in the events of yesterday, replaying them as they could’ve been, would’ve been, should’ve been. The only day we can live in is the this one – the one called today. The Psalmist declared, “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24)
This is simple, yet profoundly practical. Here’s an experiment you can do right now. Stop reading, smile while counting to five. Scientists tell us that the mere act of smiling, actually releases endorphins (natural anti-depressants) in our bodies, causing feelings of happiness and joy to emerge. What would happen if at every stoplight, while you waited (patiently) you smiled? At the very least, we wouldn’t be so quick to jump on the horn when the person in front of us is a little slow in punching the gas-on-green. However, I imagine we may actually being to see things from a more joy-filled perspective.
Smiling faces make you happy,
and good news makes you feel better.
(Proverbs 15:30 GNT)
- Designated Times of Fun
There are days when I come home, perhaps during a particularly busy or stressful week and declare “Family Fun Night.” Whereupon, all three kids begin to jump up and down chanting “Family fun night! Family fun night!” Our destination may be a restaurant, putt-putt, a play-scape or a yogurt shop. The point isn’t the place; it’s the posture and attitude. It’s a time of intentional connecting and celebration. The only stipulation is that all cell phones stay at home or in the car. After all, it’s impossible to be present with the family if my mind, eyes and thumbs are captured by the clutches of Facebook updates and such.
- Be intentionally Grateful
If we’re not careful, we can all become full-time professional critics. We can spend our days seeing everything that’s wrong with everything, while remaining crippled in our ability to see the good, the beautiful and the divine that is often present in the mundane.
Have you ever noticed that the more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. What is there in your life worth celebrating? What are you grateful for? What if, before you went to sleep tonight, you simply began to tell God what you are thankful for?
Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
When we celebrate, John Ortberg writes, “we exercise our ability to see and feel goodness in the simplest gifts of God. We are able to take delight today in something we wouldn’t have even noticed yesterday.” Intentional celebration and gratitude increases our capacity for joy.
- Dance Like No One is Watching
Have you ever noticed how often the thing that prevents us from experiencing joy is our preoccupation with ourselves? There’s a direct correlation between my willingness to pour myself out for the joy of others and my ability to notice and celebrate the multitude of small gifts God offers each day. Boredom, writes Walker Percy, “is the self stuffed with the self.”
When children become excited, they dance. When was the last time you danced? I don’t mean went to a club and danced. I mean, danced for joy? Did you know that the God of Scripture dances? The bible tells us that God dances over His people with singing. What would it look like for you to join Him? Here’s a suggestion: when at home, crank up some music and dance before God – as if no one was watching. If you are married and have children, you may even want to invite you to join you. If you struggle with this, I’ve found that it sometimes helps to put a pair of shorts on my head. Just don’t forget to smile.
To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence.
Joy is the serious business of heaven.