Recently, my husband and I went to hear Rob Bell, an exceptional Christian author and speaker, who is doing his tour, “An Introduction to Joy.” If you ever get a chance to hear him, you will not regret it. He manages to be hilariously funny while sharing tremendously profound and accessible wisdom.
His message really was this: We are all headed to death. Live a life full of joy.
He used Ecclesiastes as the centerpiece of the message. Here is an excerpt of Chapter 9 from the Common English version:
“Go, eat your food joyfully and drink your wine happily because God has already accepted what you do. Let your garments always be white; don’t run short of oil for your head. Enjoy life with your dearly loved spouse all the days of your pointless life that God gives you under the sun—all the days of your pointless life—because that’s your part to play in this life and in your hard work under the sun. Whatever you are capable of doing, do with all your might because there’s no work, thought, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave, which is where you are headed.”
Many other versions use the word “meaningless” instead of “pointless.” Bell says the Hebrew word means “vapor” or “smoke.” So basically, life is just a vapor.
For those of us who are alcoholics or compulsive eaters, we should read this passage through the screen of what it means for us to live joyfully –- which is to abstain from alcohol or compulsive eating. But that doesn’t change the central meaning:
ENJOY LIFE right now, in the present moment, and give it your all.
Bell described a time he was invited to speak along with the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu. He happened to observe the two men as they met. (They already were well acquainted.) Instead of having a profound or sad conversation about the state of humanity, they actually tickled each other and laughed! They joked with each other! He said that joy radiated from them.
Bell (and the writer of Ecclesiastes) says this kind of joy is not the same as superficial, frivolous living that denies darkness. Instead, it comes from travelling through the darkness, embracing it, and choosing to see light and live in joy.
The event was a revelation to both my husband and me, especially as we look at aging and retirement. Our days are limited. How shall we choose to live? It shifted the conversation from a ponderous “what should I do to change the world?” to “change the world by finding and spreading joy.”
Since moving to Atlanta, I have been searching for a way to use my music and worship experience to “help people.” It feels like all that seeking has ended in closed doors. Instead, time and time, again what I’ve been given are opportunities to just sing or perform, with joy, in concerts, dances and theaters.
Recently, I did my third concert for social dancers and it was wildly successful. Over 80 people were there, dancing their hearts out. It wasn’t profound. I didn’t share some deep message. All I did was embrace and share the absolute joy of singing wonderful music to an audience that loves to dance to it.
Could it be that simple?
I realized that, all along, it had ALWAYS been that simple. Whenever I was “helping” people, and shared music with absolute joy, it created joy, and THAT was what had helped people. It made zero difference what the context was or who the participants were. The joy was the entire point.
And, I realized that whenever I have let fear, cynicism, weariness, personal conflicts or money matters overtake that joy, things have floundered or failed.
Life is meaningless and we all die. So Carpe Diem! This is the moment. Don’t wait. Embrace joy. Look for the light. Laugh and carry on as if you were going to die tomorrow, because, hey … you might!
Eternity and all of heaven are right here, in this moment, right now.
Just a thought…
To learn more about Rob Bell: https://robbell.com/
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