August 29, 2014

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Find the complete joy of Jesus in everyday blessings

Sean GallagherMy youngest son Colin’s first birthday won’t happen for another week or so. But for the past couple of months, it seems like he’s been giving himself one gift after another.

A big grin spread across his face as he just started to crawl. Then I’d see his happy face pop around a corner when he became confident enough to crawl from room to room.

Now he smiles as he pulls himself up to various pieces of furniture in the house and “cruises” along them.

Surely, his first steps aren’t far away. What smiles will await us then?

It’s been a pleasure for my wife, Cindy, our other sons and I to see Colin so happy with himself as he’s learned these new skills, even if he’s been a troublemaker in our closets and with our floor lamps. Yes, it’s time to “baby proof” our house once again.

But as Colin has been learning, I’ve been trying to learn, too—or at least trying to remember a lesson I learned long ago but forgot somewhere along the line.

I suspect I was a happy little boy when I achieved those first accomplishments some 43 years ago. As I grew older, things that give great joy to Colin—like simply crawling or walking—became commonplace to me.

And, in a certain sense, they should be. We really can’t expect to walk around giddily happy every time we take a step.

But the happiness of my young son that shines through in such ordinary events helps me recall the importance of being present to the little blessings with which our loving God surrounds us every moment of our lives.

As each of us moves into adulthood, we often focus our hearts and minds on moving on to bigger goals after having achieved smaller ones.

It might be striving to graduate from high school or college, landing that first job, establishing oneself in a career, getting married and living well as a spouse or parent.

All of these are good and worthy goals. They deserve our best efforts. And, with the help of his grace, we can give God glory and be drawn closer to him through them.

But focusing ourselves too much on these adult goals can narrow our spiritual vision. While keeping our eyes on the ball of these admittedly important objectives, we might become blind to the small but no less vital blessings that fill what we sometimes make the sidelines of our lives.

They might include the joy to be found in watching a baby take his or her first steps, sharing a meal with a friend or loved one, letting go a hearty laugh after hearing a good, or even not so good, joke and so many more things.

Jesus said at the Last Supper that he wanted his joy to be in us and “your joy to be complete” (Jn 15:11).

He said that his joy comes to us when we follow his commandment to love another as he loves us, which ultimately means “laying down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

For Jesus, that specifically meant freely embracing his suffering and death.

For us, his adult followers, it can mean being more like Colin—being the spiritual children he wants us to be—by consciously taking time out of our busy days to take delight in the little things of life.

This will help us make the joy of Jesus more complete in our own lives. But it can also spread that joy to others when our smiles are inspired by everyday happiness and triumphs of our children, friends and loved ones. †

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