Friday, December 04, 2015

The Glad Game

In the past I have claimed to be a realist, but really that was a code name for a deep-seated pessimism. Of late, I have been growing in the area of seeing my circumstances in a positive light. In the hospital this past spring, they taught us mindfulness and that practice of thought focuses on the five senses and involves observing a thought that comes to you, and if it is negative simply letting it go. There are various principles to this meditation practice, but in essence you are paying attention to the simple joys in life and letting go of some of your uglier judgements about yourself and other people. Mindfulness practice is excellent for those struggling with depression or anxiety, and I found in it a way to calm my racing thoughts and focus on the now.

There is a conflict between my desire for a realistic appraisal of my situation and my search for true joy. The kind of joy that is always bubbling under the surface of life and spilling over into words and acts of gratitude. Joy that is not based on circumstances or the prevailing mood of the day or the fickleness of emotions. Joy that runs so deep it is not swayed by hormonal fluctuations or bad news or disappointments and daily struggles.

So many occasions in the Bible we are commanded to rejoice, even in the face of persecutions and suffering. Paul found contentment and true joy, even when in prison or undergoing persecution and hardships. In one of my favourite passages on the vine and the branches in John 15, Jesus says as we remain in his love and keep his commands to love each other, we will experience abiding joy. He states "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11, NIV). Peter writes about rejoicing in the believers' "new birth into a living hope" and into the inheritance kept in heaven for us, even in the midst of trials that prove the genuineness of our faith. He speaks of "an inexpressible and glorious joy" in salvation (1 Peter 1:3-9). This joy in being redeemed and delivered is clearly a fulfilment of a prophecy in Isaiah about a time coming when, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3, NIV).

One of my mother's favourite movies is Pollyanna, and she often exhibits a similar sunny optimism. At times I find that so aggravating, I retreat to a gloomy Eeyore-like state that is probably of much greater annoyance to everyone around me. I focus on what I cannot do, instead of the world of possibilities of what I could accomplish if I simply tried. Playing "the Glad Game" may not be a such bad idea, when dissatisfaction builds, discouragement sets in, and the violins start playing for my pity party for one.

How do I rejoice in my current situation? One of the keys must be found in love and service for others. The others might be unearthed by abiding in Christ and praising God for who He is and what he has already accomplished in my life, namely salvation, redemption, deep healing, and forgiveness. There have been so many answers to prayer, so many instances of his faithfulness. The thing about his many promises, is that they never fail, and his love doesn't either.
My parents in Montreal this fall.

My parents and myself

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