The Good gifts (2) – The discipline of Celebration

I’ve had to learn a thing or two in my life, thus far,
one thing I know is that sadness grows, the more we see of life.
It’s like I need to train myself to see the shafts of light in the gloom,
but when I do a flood breaks through of sweet gratitude.
I’m not saying you turn your back on the griefs you face,
You mourn your losses but count each joy as a gift of grace.

So many good gifts, so many tastes of sweetness,
there’s a lot of darkness here, that’s why we need to treasure all the joy!

I wrote this song several years ago, after reading a life-changing passage in Henri Nouwen’s book, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’ (a beautiful read, by the way). I can still remember the tears streaming down my face as I tried to read aloud a section entitled “The Father Celebrates” to my husband, as we drove along.

Nouwen points out that in spite of all the sin, sadness and waste of the younger son’s betrayal, the Father still chose to celebrate all that could be celebrated when he returned. This is a surprising, but very dear truth revealed about God. The one who knows every speck of weakness and folly in us, every evidence of darkness and sin in the world, deliberately chooses to acknowledge and focus on the reality of the good that has happened, and to actively rejoice in it. This is not some Pollyanna-ish denial of reality – the Father acknowledges that his son had been dead, but was now alive, and so on. For some of us, all the pain and injustice we see in the world can become central (and overwhelming) in our thinking and outlook; but in contrast the Father chooses to celebrate every small event of faith, goodness and redemption.

That day, I realised that to celebrate goodness is to choose to recognise and applaud the reality of God’s kingdom – here in the midst of this evil age. Though the darkness shouts loudly, every ‘shaft of light in the gloom’ is just as real as the darkness. In fact you could say that it’s more real, because it is from God, and will last forever; whereas the evil, the failures and all the tears will one day be left behind (Rev 21:4)! Nouwen urges us to train ourselves to actively seek out the joys – he calls it stealing (ie. searching out to grasp hold of) all the joy that there is to be had in life. Could it actually be an act of spiritual defiance to notice and celebrate every shred of God’s goodness – as if to say, “I will not be overcome by the darkness in and around me, because it is a passing shadow compared to the glorious light that is here and real!”?

I believe the importance of this habit of celebrating, this spiritual discipline of active gratitude, cannot be underestimated. As neuroscience discovers more about the plasticity of the brain, I wonder if we’ll see that life habits like these could be forming neural pathways that are transformative to say the least. The idea of treasuring all the joy has been quite revolutionary in my whole way of living, and has dragged me out of the depths many times. The truth that every good gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17) has the power to make even an ordinary day alive with gratitude. When I recognise the fact that everything that I have has been given by God (1 Cor 4:7), it allows me to live with a more open hand: a lighter hold on my possessions, abilities and whatever else I call mine. Looking for and celebrating what the Father is doing in my world (John 5:17) reminds me that His Kingdom is alive, and that I might even join in with what He is doing (calls to mind that saying, “it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”).

The fact is, I don’t need practise in noticing the darkness, in feeling the pain and weight of the very real sorrows and wounds of this broken and enslaved world, or of my own heart. I am already expert in that! What I do need, and what is bringing great joy into my life, is a growing ability to trace the Father’s hand in the midst of it, and to lift my vision to be able to receive the gifts that He gives to comfort and bless, all along the way…
Sun on my back in the middle of winter, kissing a newborn’s cheek,
Beautiful coffee from my husband each day of the week,
Children laughing uncontrollably, tickling toddler’s tums,
Seeing their imaginations fully on the run!
Playing my banjo in the recliner, singing silly songs,
Eating, oh too much to say here, shame it puts weight on!
Sunsets, oceans, clouds and trees – I cannot get enough!
So many beautiful things I lo-o-o-o-ove! Oh!

So many good gifts, so many tastes of sweetness,
there’s a lot of darkness here, that’s why we need to treasure all the joy!

(Quotes from “So many good gifts”, c. Nerida Cuddy 2011)

6 thoughts on “The Good gifts (2) – The discipline of Celebration

  1. wow….big buitiful stuff…i lost a few bran cells…but i lov this stuff…i can chose to be happy and at peace…and react in kind…as our god acts to us…threw him…we know love…happness and peace….lov u mate

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