Reflection – June 2021
“Joy is the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”
(Brother David Steindl-Rast)
We stood before a thickly branched blue spruce that must be at least 70 feet tall. How different we were, the two of us looking out the window at the tree. A mid-80’s woman holding onto a walker for support due to a broken pelvis from a recent fall, and myself, experiencing good health at a younger age. Our differences did not divide us. A much deeper bond of lengthy spiritual friendship united us in respect and love for one another.
I thought of my friend’s positive outlook in spite of her body’s slow recovery. She could have been imprisoned in bed everyday except for a willingness to do her daily exercises, and a firm determination to be healed and walk more easily. Her long years of various sufferings prepared her for this situation. She knows the truth of what Brother David indicated. My friend finds joy in Spring’s soft green tips on the evergreen’s branches as she stands daily at the bedroom window gazing in wonder at the tree’s growth from the past twenty years when it was newly planted. She treasures a visit from a beloved granddaughter, the inner peace found through faithfulness to prayer, the increasing strength in her arms and legs due to physical therapy, the kindness shown by daughters, and the caring messages sent from friends and church community.
I’ve learned anew by observing my friend’s response to her situation, that whether we are on the receiving or the giving end when troubles and unwanted situations dump distress into our midst, our contentment does not depend on them. We can decide how we will respond. I benefitted from this wisdom several weeks ago when I sojourned four days in a one room cabin. After the first day there, I wrote in my journal: “I can receive and welcome joy here even though there’s no running water or indoor plumbing; loud traffic roar from a highway two miles away; temperature of low 30’s in the morning; little clouds of no-see-ums and gnats swarm in the sunshine exactly where I want to sit to warm myself; and the “real restroom” is a block away. But when I focus on what I have, I am supremely content: precious solitude, trees lush with dancing leaves, a marvelous walking trail, a quiet lake, the wide river flowing gently in front of the cabin, a comfortable bunk bed, electricity to juice my computer and provide refrigeration, and best of all, songbirds galore.”
When closing the door to leave, I was definitely ready to return to the cabin again, knowing that the pleasure of those days did not depend upon the unwanted, external irritations. Now that I am back home I am more aware of the daily choices I make. There’s no need to blame anyone or anything when I feel grumpy or stressed. It’s a reminder to pause for an interior inventory, to decide on which view I choose to place my focus—the stuff I’d like to bump out of my life or the unceasing benefits that slip between what I do not want.
When my view gets skewed and happiness seems far from me, I return to the trust and encouragement of Julian of Norwich’s oft quoted line: “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” That trust-filled wisdom readily serves to restore my equanimity.
Abundant peace, Joyce Rupp.