Good Days and Bad Days
- Friday, March 12, 2010
I suppose a good life is the succession of good days lived one after another. And aiming for a good life means concentrating on living one good day at a time, right?
But what does that mean? And how do I do it?
I wrote this piece before my wife was in excruciating pain all night and was airlifted for emergency surgery this morning. So did what I write -- about having a good day -- stand up in the face of changing circumstances? Decide for yourself.
A good day is one in which we don't worry, regardless of our circumstances. These may be good times or bad times, but they are the only times we have. That's why the Apostle Paul advised, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds."
Jesus taught us to be content with the simple basics of life. "Give us this day our daily bread," his prayer manual advises. Jesus doesn't oppose our long-range plans, 401(k)s and investment portfolios, but our happiness should not depend on them.
In Jesus' view, a good day is one where we do God's will, which he summarized as loving God and loving neighbor.
If God is central to a good day, that means God is central in our individual lives each day. In our self-centered age, it's a counterintuitive way of life, and thinking. "Christianity has to be disappointing, precisely because it is not a mechanism for accomplishing all our human ambitions and aspirations," spiritual writer Simon Tugwell concluded. "It is a mechanism for subjecting all things to the will of God."
God's will requires avoiding the daily temptations to do wrong things. I've found that doing good things makes a good day; doing bad things makes a bad day.
Accepting and doing God's will require knowing God's will. And knowing God's will requires knowing God. For me, a good day requires some daily space and quietness set aside for prayer, reading Scripture, thinking and meditating. This, too, takes time.
Loving our neighbor takes time. When George Washington retired to Mount Vernon, citizens would often show up unannounced to meet him.
Martha would make tea and invite them for dinner. This socializing generally took place between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day. Then, at 7 p.m., Washington would dismiss himself and go to his office where he would spend another hour or two on his correspondence. That's a big chunk of his day set aside for people, often strangers.
Jesus knew that loving people would get nettlesome, so he said we should learn to forgive other people and ask them to forgive us in turn.
Keeping short accounts makes for a good day.
Read biographies and you'll see most productive people developed daily routines enabling them to chip away at the duties attendant to everyday life. Paul Ford said of C.S. Lewis: "Lifestyle is revealed by the use of time: what is given place and space; what is included and what, therefore, is excluded. For all of his immense output of literary work, his life is marked by a spacious, unfrantic rhythm of worship, work, conversation, availability, and intimacy."
I notice in healthy people a balance of time alone -- time for their work and time for their family and friends. The Hebrew word "shalom," or peace, comes to mind because in the Jewish tradition, peace was not the cessation of war, but rather the wholeness and completeness of life.
So can I have a good day with my wife in the hospital and me waiting to catch the next ferry home in two hours? I think I can.
Good days are not delivered with nice pretty bows on them. We make every day a good day. It is a choice. Sometimes, like for me today, events take an unexpected, unwanted turn.
Our job is to make every day a good one whatever comes our way. For me, I've learned I can do all things through God who strengthens me.
Dick Staub is the author of The Culturally Savvy Christian and the host of The Kindlings Muse (www.thekindlings.com). His blog can be read at www.dickstaub.com).
c. 2010 Religion News Service. Used with permission.
Original publication date: March 12, 2010
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