Why aren’t some people joyful? Or what do we do if we’re a little down in the joy department?
This is Part 2 of the video series that NBCS Senior Chaplain, Damien Whitington, shares about finding joy with Gratitude.
It’s Thursday morning. I wake up 6:30am. I can’t believe I have to wake up this early! School starts 8:45am – most of my other friends have jobs that start at 9am. It’s raining. Argh, this slows down everything and now Powderworks Rd is clogged. People don’t know how to merge properly. One guy even takes my spot. I work at a new school. At my previous school I knew just about everyone, and most people knew me. I dwell on the relationships I’ve lost, and I think I should have more by now. A student comes to student reception and wants to have a deep chat during lunch. Doesn’t he know this is my time. I need to get some admin done and I am entitled to that time. I go for a surf after work but it’s super quick because the sun sets so early in winter. I didn’t really gain much out of that surf. I go home to my small two bedroom apartment in Collaroy. Collaroy isn’t even a real beach – it’s just a close out with a stinky drain pipe. I can’t wait to get out of there and live in a house. I really should have more than this at this stage of life. I go to sleep thinking about all the things I missed out on. I’m entitled to more I say, and I barely sleep due to stress.
My Thursday again
It’s Thursday morning. I wake up at 6:30am. I get a sleep in! I used to get up at 6am last year as my job was in Hornsby. School started at 8:20am there. It’s raining. I know it’s a bit miserable, but I remember a time when we didn’t have enough rain in NSW. What a gift rain is. Powderworks Rd clogged with traffic. People don’t merge properly, and one guy even cuts in. But it’s not my road. And it’s not my spot. We all have to share. What a gift it is we have roads and cars! We live in a day and age where we can work and enjoy many things that are far away. I’m at a new school this year. I miss people from my previous school, but I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve be welcomed by so many students and staff. And because I’m interacting with different people, I’m learning so much from their lives and insights. A student wants to have a deep chat during lunch, and even though I’ve got some admin to do, what a gift it is that he would feel comfortable to share his questions with me. Admin will always be there, but precious moment like this won’t always be. I go home to my small two bedroom apartment in Collaroy. What a gift it is to live so close to the beach! I bought the place seven years ago, and I was only able to do so because the market hadn’t boomed yet. I didn’t do anything to deserve that – what a gift. As my head hits the pillow, I reflect on all the gifts I got to enjoy that day, and I drift off to sleep satisfied.
Last week we learned the old king thought life was meaningless. And it is meaningless if we only try to gain. As you saw in the first version of my Thursday, I lived with a gain mentality. Or some may call this a mentality of ‘entitlement’. As a result, the day ended with little joy and satisfaction. I viewed life like the old king who seemingly gained everything. But look at what he says when we live with a gain mentality:
‘Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.’ (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
But the king says there is another way. It’s a way full of meaning and joy. He says:
‘God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)
I’m sure you caught the key word in that last sentence – ‘gift’. In the second version of my Thursday you saw me live with a gift mentality. Same day, but more joy and satisfaction.
This gift mentality means much more than just looking on the bright side. For example, as a teenager I got right into golf but I had terrible golf clubs. As I played more, mum said I could choose a new set for my birthday. We shopped for weeks and in true Whitington fashion I picked an expensive set that was nearly $1000 (this was a lot for a teenager in the mid 90’s). Mum generously paid for them, and when it got to my actual birthday I saw this clunky, wrapped package in the corner of the lounge room. My reaction went something like this: Oh cool, golf clubs, yay, who knew! And I was happy.
But compare this to another gift I received about six months later. My pop picked me up from school, and in the centre console was a wrapped box. I looked at him and said, ‘what’s this for?’
He replied, ‘nothing, it’s just a gift.’
I said, ‘yeah, but did I do something to deserve it? Was I good or something?’
And he said, ‘nope, it’s just a gift.’
I tore into the wrapping and behold – it was a Wolverine X-Men video game for the Sega Mega Drive (no Nintendo here, dang it). It was a $100 video game and I looked at pop and said, ‘what! No way! Why! This is rad, I love Wolverine!’ I couldn’t stop smiling.
Something baffled me about this though. I was more joyful about the $100 wolverine game than the $1000 golf clubs. Why? This shouldn’t be! Surely I should have more joy over the $1000 golf clubs?! But here’s the catch. With the golf clubs, I got this as a birthday present. And we all think we’re entitled to a birthday present. However, with the $100 video game, I got this as a true gift – something I didn’t deserve. And because of this, I had more joy.
This is the power of the gift mentality. Imagine waking every day and recognising the gifts – all the things we get to enjoy that we don’t deserve. I know it changed my Thursday. So what about you? Last week in your mentor group we asked students to write down 20 things they’re grateful for. This time, they will write down 20 things they enjoy that they didn’t necessarily deserve.
Now in all of this I’m not saying just cheer up and ignore the rubbish in our lives! No, that would make us unempathetic people who don’t live in reality. But what I think the Bible is saying is that we need see the gifts God gives us before we see the rubbish. After all – I don’t need to be taught how to see the rubbish – I can do that quite easily. However, we do need to be reminded to see the gifts. It’s my hope that this guards us against being an entitled community, which isn’t good for oneself or others. Rather, let us be people who see the gifts God gives every day, and may we relish in the joy and satisfaction that comes with that.”