Don't postpone joy. These words were boldly printed on a bumper sticker that was for sale on a sidewalk stand under an oak tree. The enterprising salesman had lots of other advice spread across his tables. But at a time when so many people are preoccupied with anxious thoughts about the new millennium, nothing touched me quite like that slogan.
I'd been thinking about the importance of living in the moment. Not any moment - and certainly not an anxious moment. In God's moment, where there is no postponement of His goodness to us.
One of our daughters has recently become a first-time mother. Suddenly, she has found herself busier than she has ever been in her career as a business-conference planner - and somewhat overwhelmed by the whole experience. She totally loves her tiny daughter and is committed to meeting her every need. Still, after many sleepless nights, with feedings at less than three-hour intervals, she finally declared: "I'm exhausted! Out of control. Will I ever get back to real work?"
Well, bringing up the old adage about taking one thing at a time seemed to me more than a little lame in these circumstances. So I suggested we concentrate on the joys of having a little one in the home. Babies are an incredible amount of work, yes; but they bring rich rewards, too. I pointed out how wonderful it is to watch their daily development. Often, they grow up right in front of us - while we are staring at them - and we don't notice! Or, should we say, we don't appreciate their progress sufficiently.
On the same morning that I came across the bumper sticker, I happened upon something written by an acquaintance of mine: "Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eye so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now" (Elisabeth Elliot, "Keep a Quiet Heart").
Now. It's among the shortest and most potent words in the English language. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "This was an emphatic rule of St. Paul: 'Behold, now is the accepted time.' A lost opportunity is the greatest of losses" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 12). Now is the moment in which to seize opportunity!
That includes the "fulness of joy" described by the Psalmist (see Ps. 16:11) and the abiding joy that Jesus promised, which "no man taketh from you" (see John 16:22). No one, nothing, can wrest authentic joy from us, or destroy it, because it is given to us by God, the only power. And this joy becomes more real to us as we truly come to know ourselves as God's children. We're loved, cared for, protected, complete - right now. God has a plan for us. It's always a good one. Nothing can separate us from God or from His plan.
This knowledge comes to us through divine power and lifts us higher. It shows itself in happier, healthier relationships with other people - including active babies! And it's worth cultivating an expectancy that God's power will be shown to you. That an ever-available and ever-operative law of harmony will become visible in your life. This expectancy is in itself a healing agent.
If at any time your joy seems lacking; if you're stressed; if your life depresses you - God and God's joy are still there. And the understanding of this can awaken in you a new hope and kindle in your life a greater harmony.
Within two weeks, our daughter was managing motherhood with the brisk efficiency with which she had run a busy office (to which she now says she is in no hurry to return).
I've learned that the better we understand that God is the source of true joy, the firmer will be our resolution never to postpone that joy. I cherish the moment when I came upon my son-in-law, alone with his daughter. He was whispering tenderly, "You're never going to be as tiny as you are now, so we're going to enjoy every moment with you!"
The message of the bumper sticker had not passed him by.
Articles like this one appear in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society