Laying in the grass. Sipping iced Coke. Mowing the lawn. Waterfights. Running through the bushes even when it gets dark. Card games by firelight. Tenting. Banana boats. S'mores. Hot chocolate with floating mini-mallows. Being told by the warden that your laughter is too loud.
Crashing on your bike. Thrashing through spiderwebs. Swallowing aphids. Wasp stings. Mosquito bites. Scraped knees. Stubbed toes. Sunburned shoulders. Seasickness. Mustard stains. Boredom.
Summer. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I've just listed a bunch of experiences that can occur in a single month of summer, experiences that trigger either delightful or painful memories. Such is life.
In a post from last year I mentioned this little 'poem' by an anonymous friar in a Nebraska monastery, and now I would like to write it out completely for you:
"If I had my life to live over again, I'd make more mistakes next time. I would relax, I would limber up, I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things I would take seriously. I would take more trips. I would be crazier. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets. I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I'm one of those people who lives life sensibly hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else, just moments, one after the other, instead of living so many years ahead each day. I've been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, aspirin, and a parachute.
If I had to do it over again, I would go places, do things, and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play hooky more. I wouldn't make such good grades, except by accident.
I would ride on more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies."
This friar from that Nebraska monastery, this old man was realizing something that many older people are figuring out now. So much life is wasted with troubles we make for ourselves. We cram our schedule until it brings us to tears, and therefore miss seeing the glorious sunsets, the frolicking butterflies, and the clouds that play charades.
We build mountains and then struggle over them, leaving no time to breathe the pure oxygen being ingeniously converted from carbon dioxide in the chloroplasts of the brilliantly designed Kingdom Plantae.
We take in the looks and smirks, words and silence of other busybodies, and we let them affect our hearts instead of letting in the day and sunshine, or listening to uplifting music.
And the thing is, we've made a culture for ourselves that says we need to do these things. A culture that says 'life for yourself' leaves no room to really live. Our routines become so stale that our bodies wake up and go to bed on a timer. We've programmed business into our system.
We've turned the earth into a clock. A painting to a chart.
And what's worse? The concept of eternity is becoming more and more of a fairytale, even to believers. Even we, who want so badly to live only for the Kingdom of God, spend an awful lot of time saving up for the Kingdom of Me.
LORD, make me to know my end
And what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am.
“Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.
“Surely every man walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.
'Transient' means we're only staying here for a short time. So spend more time eating good, nourishing foods, and less time weighing them. Take more time to read and observe, and less time moping and staring at a monitor. Try to create, and take joy in the result- even if no one sees your masterpiece except for you. Have more conversations in person, or over the phone, where the vocal and auditory aspects of friendship can thrive. Fill your head with more art and music, and less with calculus and periodic tables.
And the things that you have to do, such as school and work, take joy in it. Work at a pace, and go the extra mile. (It's never crowded!) Be the person that walks on the earth the way it was meant to be walked on- by one who breathes in the fragrance and sees the beauty around them, and credits the Creator. Live a life that leaves you tired and dirty, bruised up but content. Live life loud, so you don't show up at the pearly gates looking cleaner than them.
The possible side effects of living are cancer, arthritis, asthma, broken bones, allergies, fevers, migraines, and everything else. But so what? Spending hours and hours looking up homemade remedies and diet plans and workout schedules and monitoring every pound can't change the expiry date that God's already set. We have an allowance called life. And we have a responsibility to live.
Take care of your body, because it is God's temple. But take care of your soul more, because that's what will last. Play more, laugh louder, love harder, dance recklessly! Use your muscles, run till you're out of breath once in a while.
Write your bucket list as you complete it!
Live in such a way that you can't have regrets. Give yourself wholeheartedly to others, and try to trust someone once in a while. Love harder than you ever have before, and it will keep bubbling up inside you until you overflow.
It's August 3rd- you've got a month left of summer vacay. There's time to make some changes, and burn up the schedules. There's time to turn the story of your life from a textbook to an adventure. Put on a grin, go out the door without shoes, embrace the day. Today. You never know how many you have left- and you don't want to be taken before you've had a crack at that bucket list!
Life is too short to be anything but joyful in all circumstances.