Jen’s Gem: Focus on the joy of the day.
Our summer vacations were spent taking trips to see extended family. I had a b-zillion cousins on my father’s side in western Pennsylvania and a few in South Carolina, my mother’s home state. The trips were long, boring, yet the time with family was always joyful.
I grew up in eastern Long Island. It took at least an hour or more to get from my home to the George Washington Bridge. By then it would not be unheard of for the food my mother packed to last the entire trip to be gone. The remaining hours of the trek were spent with “Are we there yet” questions from me and my siblings and “If I have to pull this car over” threats from my Dad.
It took about ten hours to drive to my Dad’s hometown and more than double that for my Mom’s. Taking a plane to these destinations was not in the budget and to this day I wonder how my parent’s survived. Perhaps it was the joy of seeing their families that sustained them through long stretches of highways, tolls, and hot messes of back seat shenanigans.
Our arrivals were always met with tears of joy, bear hugs, and food. Lots of food. Whether it was my Sicilian or Southern grandmother’s cooking, pounds were to be gained though no one was counting nor did anyone care. In between times were spent playing with cousins, visiting their homes, and of course, more food.
On my Mom’s side, time was passed roaming around the little country store her parent’s owned. Ice cream and soda were free and a batch of Southern fried chicken, biscuits, and black eyed peas greeted us at dinner. (That’s lunch time to you Yankees.)
Departures were marked with tears and a fresh supply of “trip food” that would hopefully last longer than the minutes it took to leave the driveway. It wasn’t long before the “Are we there yet” questions and the “If I have to pull this car over” threats resumed. The next day, vacation memories faded and life returned to normal.
Normal. A word that is being used a lot these days along with its latest descriptor – new normal. We all seek a return to something that is familiar after the dizzying pendulum of COVID-19. Like many other historical moments, we will eventually adjust to the new temperature just as we do so when seasons change.
The apostles had to get used to a new normal after Jesus’ death and resurrection. For three years, their lives were filled with travels to various cities, each marked with one type of miracle or another. Without the guidance and companionship of their Teacher and Friend, what would they do? Who would they be?
Our world is complicated. Each day brings a boatload of new challenges, whether arising from worldwide pandemics or smaller hiccups like homeschooling elementary school students or figuring out what to cook for dinner. Navigating these highways and byways can try our patience, much like the trips down endless interstates tested the resolve of my parents.
“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV)
Yet, just as the joy of seeing their loved ones sustained my parents through the endless bickering and breadcrumbs, we too can set our minds on the joy that is before us. Strengthened family ties, clearer priorities, and a deeper relationship with God if we choose, beckon us at the end of the COVID-19 trip, making the trials and tribulations of this time worth the suffering.
If we keep our eyes fixed on the joy, we can endure anything. While Jesus hung on the cross, He kept His eyes fixed on knowing that His sacrifice would enable all of God’s children to be together again – just as God intended from the beginning of time. Jesus knew that a new normal would arise from His empty tomb and that no one would ever be the same again.
This week, I’d like to encourage you to set your eyes on the joys of this time. Write them down if you must and place them in a prominent place as a daily reminder. When you focus on the joy, there will be no room or time for “Are we there yet” questions because you will already be there.