Many adults have looked at a child blissfully enjoying playtime, and have, for a moment, wished they were children again. They look so peaceful, so happy, with hardly a care in the world. Children laugh easily, they enjoy what they do, and they get excited about the simplest things. They generally have minor, temporary worries that rarely last more than a few minutes or an hour. They likely spend so much more time than you do just being happy and engaged.
Don’t allow yourself to feel sad or discouraged about your imperfections, because you will never be perfect. Instead, be thankful that I am here to help you and support you. Then you won’t be tempted to feel bad when you stumble or fall along the way.
One of my favorite forms of exercise is weightlifting. I’m no bodybuilder; I just do it to stay toned and keep in shape. I also find it interesting how akin weightlifting can be to our spiritual growth.
In our “spiritual weightlifting,” we have a truly awesome trainer. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” To me, the “yoke” is symbolic of anything that strengthens and exercises our faith and Christian walk. Jesus goes on to promise right after that, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1
When I was 17, I went with friends to spend carnival in the city of Salvador. We rented a very cheap house and slept on the floor like most of the locals. Even though our neighbors were very poor, they were exceptionally nice to us. The simple life they lived and the love and friendship they gave freely were the secret to the happiness and laughter they shared. It dawned on me, for the first time, that love was the answer for many of the problems of humankind.
I was sitting in the car inside a parking lot, taking a moment to think about changes in my life and work. It felt like I had hit a plateau, and I was honestly a little worried.
Suddenly a man popped up next to my window. Short, straggly, and with an air of boundless cheer, he greeted me warmly. I was a little surprised, and even more cautious. Crime is rampant in South Africa, and there are plenty of opportunists looking for an easy mark.
I was on my way to visit a friend. As the bus approached the hospital where she was staying, a nervous shudder went through me, and I fumbled for a fitting greeting. My friend had always been sickly, and within the past year, she’d struggled to fight off several aggressive infections. Now, a major surgery had resulted in complications.
Stress relief has become a multifaceted, multi-billion-dollar industry. Armies of experts have emerged, dispensing advice of every sort. Some say the key is better time management—reduce stress by doing a better job of juggling everything we need to do. Others say the key is patience—be ambitious, but focus on less daunting short- and mid-range goals. Others tell us to reexamine our priorities from the quality-of-life angle and major on the things that count most. Still others take a more spiritual approach: Relieve stress through yoga, meditation, or other disciplines. Who are we to believe?
Without an enemy there can be no war.
I recently rewatched the movie Joyeux Noël (Christian Carion, 2005), which tells the story of a well-documented event that occurred on a battlefield in France on Christmas Eve, 1914.
One of the portions of the Nativity story that I find most beautiful and meaningful is when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus’ birth, followed by a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. It’s such a fitting entrance for the birth of the Son of God:
When my father had me listen to Beethoven’s 6th Symphony1 for the first of many times, he was undoubtedly trying to impart to me his passion for classical music.