In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen wrote: “Every moment of each day I have the chance to choose between cynicism and joy. . . . Increasingly I discover that every choice for joy in turn reveals more joy and offers more reason to make life a true celebration.”
The way of Jesus leads us through sadness and cynicism to joy and affirmation. Deep in his bones, flowing in and out of his lungs, coursing through his blood, and firing across the synapses of his brain, was this conviction: At the heart of all things, there is a singing, rejoicing, and loving God who intends to turn all creation into a vast festival of pure and unending joy.
Jesus would have known well the words of the prophet Zephaniah: “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, will rejoice over you with gladness, will renew you in love, and will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.”
Nothing else matters more than letting this truth glow in our hearts, brighten our spirits and shine in our minds. I mean nothing else: not piling up a bunch of money, or moving into the house of our dreams, or getting a wall of diplomas, or stacking a display case chockfull of trophies and plaques and awards, or cramming scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings about good things we’ve done.
There’s nothing wrong with money if we use it well, or with a nice house if we make it a home where love dwells, or with recognitions if we spend the influence they bring on making a difference in the world. These things matter some, but they don’t matter nearly as much as knowing what Jesus knew about God.
Nothing else matters more: not getting all As, making mother happy and father proud, and being voted most likely to succeed. Not being a state record-holder or a scratch golfer or the club tennis champion. Not meeting all our family’s expectations, satisfying all of the demands of our work, or saying “Yes” to every legitimate-sounding request a friend makes. Not being admired, respected, and honored by all the right people, whoever they are.
There are plenty of people who have glittering academic and professional credentials, who turned-out just the way their parents insisted, who are fine athletes, even well past high school and college, who are the people everyone turns to when something hard or important needs to be done, and who have the esteem and recognition of their company, community and church.
But, again, here’s what Jesus knew, and it matters more than any of those things: at the heart of all things, there is a singing, rejoicing, and loving God, who intends to turn all creation into a vast festival of pure and unending joy.
Don’t miss this truth: God loves you, sings over you, delights in you, and wants joy for you.