One of the ways the Lord has trained my heart to cultivate gratefulness is by teaching me to enjoy the ride called life. There are going to be challenges and hills to climb on this journey. That's a given. Once you know that hills and trials will always be there, you will be able to expect them and no longer be surprised by them, which will free you up and enable you to enjoy the ride.
God created things for us to enjoy. Stop and enjoy them. Enjoy life. Enjoy the sunshine. Enjoy the rain. When you go home, enjoy your meal. When your wife says, "Please mow the lawn, Dear," enjoy the mowing of the lawn! Take the dog for a walk. Enjoy the walk and enjoy your time with your dog. This life is too short for us to not enjoy it. Enjoy the ride.
The Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength (see Neh. 8:10). But we often limp weakly through life because we have forgotten to take it along. For every activity in your day, take along a fresh pack of joy.
One summer, our family went to Disneyland. One of the attractions my son wanted to check out was the Indiana Jones ride. I said, "Let's go for it!" Now, I'm analytical person, and I watch stuff. As we were working our way through the line I said, "See that, Aaron?" See that little creature on the rock? It's not really a creature at all. It's a mechanical device that's computer activated."
"Really?" he asked.
"Yeah! And see the shapes on the wall? They're made by a light projected through a special filter. That filter's called a gobo. See it?"
"Oh, yeah! said Aaron. "Cool, cool."
Spurred further by his interest, I continued. "See that rock face over there, with the mist gliding across it? That's smoke coming from a machine, not really morning mist at all."
"Yeah. And see that over there, Son?"
"That's a mirror."
We climbed into the car. "Do you see how this jeep is painted to look old, Aaron?"
"It's brand-new, though. Check out the serial number."
"Yeah, it is!"
"And look under the dash. There aren't any wires. You know why? Because it's on a track." As I was transforming into a combination of Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes, the jeep lunged forward and we were in motion. The speed increased, and we whipped around a corner, eliciting screams from the girls in the car next to us.
"That was goo, Aaron, but if it was banked another 10 degrees, the G-forcewould have been better. It really would have made your stomach drop!"
"Great, Dad!" said Aaron, having to shout in order to be heard.
"You see that, Aaron? That's another mirror!" I yelled, as we zipped down the track.
By this time, Aaron wasn't responding to my cogent analysis of the ride. He was midflight, with his head and body being jostled, twisted and pulled with every turn of the track.
"See that rock coming at us? It's on a track!" I yelled, "It'll go back and get reset for the next car behind us! Not very effective, huh?"
Soon the jeep came to a halt and the ride was over. "You know, Aaron, if we could have made a sharper turn on the second hairpin, it would've been even better. And if the smoke had come out sooner, we could have traveled right through it."
Aaron stopped me with a less than gracious tone, "Hey, Dad! Enough!"
"What do you mean, 'enough'?"
Without answering, he turned and stalked off. "Hey, you, get over here. I've got more things to tell you," I called after him. He kept walking.
"Enough!" he called back. "I ain't riding with you no more!"
"Okay, I'll meet you later!" I said. Then, under my breath, I muttered to myself, "Dumb kid! He doesn't listen, does he? That's his problem."
As I was walking around kicking dirt, the Lord spoke to my heart: "You missed the whole ride, didn't you? You were so busy trying to figure everythig out, you missed the whole ride."
I stopped and thought, You know, that's right! I don't even remember the ride. I was so involved in all the little details, I missed the whole ride!
Have you ever done that? Have you ever gotten so caught up in the details of life that before you know it, the ride is over? Ever get so caught up in the preparations of a wedding that you miss the wedding? Ever get so distracted with cleaning the house before guests arrive that you alienate your whole family in the process? So often we are short with others, blaming our families and hissing at our neighbors in times of stress. We're like Martha, who was so "distracted with all her preparations" that she began to complain. Turning to her honored houseguest, Jesus, she exploded, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40). We get so distracted with the little details, we forget to enjoy the ride!
We miss the sunrises and sunsets, too often our children grow up without us, and the beauty of this ride called life goes unnoticed. My own children have grown up so quickly they were walking across the platform to receive their high school diplomas! The next minute they're gone, and the ride is over.
We begin our days with a jolt of coffee, motor from task to task, and return home exhausted - only to get up and do it all over again. Don't miss the ride! Instead of driving through at a relentless pace, let's slow down. God has given us a beautiful world to live in, a world filled with His wonders, His people and Himself. It's all there, if we will only take the time enjoy.
It's taken me a while to learn this essential lesson. And I'm so glad I finally caught it! Here are a few ways I've learned to enjoy ride:
- Take five minutes today and write down the names of two people you appreciate. They may be people who have gone unnoticed. They could be a spouse, a friend or someone who did a good deed that slipped by everyone's notice. Write them a note of thanks. Be sure to add as much detail as you can about how that person's actions blessed you. And send it!
- Don't forget to laugh. Some of us need to learn to laugh again. There is plenty to laugh about in life, and we need to laugh. Stand naked in front of the mirror. That alone should take care of your laughter quota for a day or two. Keep a record of how many times you laugh today. It could be for any reason at all, but try to laugh at least five times! You'll find great opportunities by listening to children or spending a few more minutes in the lunchroom with your coworkers. If that's not working, go into the bathroom (again!) and imagine you're entering a funny-face contest. Practice before a mirror. (Be sure no one else is in the restroom at the time! You might want to check all the stalls before proceeding.)
- Do one thing for yourself today. Write in into your shedule. Often I will stop on the way home at a little yogurt shop for a frozen treat. Oh, the ecstasy of those few minutes! This slows me down before I arrive home. For you, it could be a short jog, a walk or listening to some of your favorite music. Whatever it is, take time to enjoy life in its simplest form.
- Make a new friend today. If you were given an assignment to make a new friend, how would you do it? It only takes a few minutes to stop and truly be interested in another person's life. Ask that person about his or her family, dreams or struggles. Then listen. Truly listen. You'll be surprised how many friends you will collect over a period of just a few days! By the way, a great place to start is with your family. You'll be surprised how many of us are related but not friends. Life is too short for that. By establishing deep friendships with your family, you'll begin to reap one of God's greatest promises and rewards.
Pause long enough to enjoy the ride. Train yourself to see what is good. Take the time to laugh with each other. Laugh at yourself. Although there will be imperfections and periodic setbacks, you will be surprised how wonderful life can be when you have a good attitude.
You will hear God better. You will enjoy His presence.
You will be pleasantly surprised how a new perspective will help you to develop an attitude that attracts friends, laughter, joy and success!