You’ll only pass this way once.
That’s the iconic phrase about life that virtually every human being over the age of 6 has heard at least once. For some people, it’s a mantra. Part inspiration, part cautionary phrase, part last-thing-I’m-going-to-say, semi-dismissive, passive-aggressive encouragement to close out a conversation or part of one.
But what the hell does that mean, exactly?
Does it mean you’re going to wander around and never return to this location again? Is the road or path you’re currently on about to disappear? Are the Vogons about to clear the planet to make way for some intergalactic super-highway?
If you got that last reference, chances are you’re “my kind of people.” Grab your towel, life can get exciting!
You’ll only pass this way once. It’s true and mysteriously, annoyingly trite all at once. It does, however, engender a more interesting and important question.
Where’s the joy in your journey? Or perhaps more simply, is there joy in your journey?
I believe in a loving, all-knowing and omnipotent God who, as Jeremiah 29:11 says “know(s) the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future.” Perhaps you see the universe, or God, differently. That’s okay. The plans remain the same.
Unless you believe we were randomly put here for the sole purpose of suffering until we die and disappear from the universe like so much dust, this pass through the cosmos must have something else in store for us.
There is so much to be learned on this one-time pass. Much to be learned about ourselves, about others and about all that surrounds us. Most important may be the learning about what’s in the universe inside of us.
It’s been said that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. While that certainly implies that we will return to spirit form at some point, for now, we are all here, in this world, having this experience. Together and separately. Whoa!
There will be challenges. Never doubt that for a second. Wins, losses, lessons and “wtf?” moments that will leave you stunned and (insert your favorite descriptive for this here.)
You will be given all you can handle. You will find people who love you and people who just don’t. You’ll experience success and failure and everything in between. You’ll learn, forget and learn again – sometimes the same lessons!
But all of it means nothing if it leads to a journey without joy.
Self-discovery, self-awareness and understanding of all we encounter are useless if there is no joy, no life in the exploration and the finding. You see, joy is “the thing.” It’s what makes human existence worthwhile.
Joy is in every good thing and every good feeling.
When you accomplish something great, like finally getting that job or promotion, there is joy steeped in the feeling of self-satisfaction. When you overcome a great obstacle, like becoming debt-free, there is joy at the center of the combination of relief and elation. When you defeat a mighty foe, like winning the championship or finishing that marathon (or beating the mightiest of foes, like cancer,) joy lives in that triumphant feeling.
I would argue that there’s even joy in the painful moments, in the pain of loss and in grief. If they are shared, the sensation that we are not alone spurs a muted joy deep within us that allows us to see light beyond the darkness and happiness beyond the pain.
But joy isn’t just in the massive and the measurable. Joy lives and breathes in the tiniest things and most often overlooked moments.
Joy lives in a babies unbridled laughter. Joy lives in the smiles of 5 teenage girls piled into a photo booth for a ridiculous picture. Joy lives in the satisfaction of fulfilling a commitment made to get 5 workouts in this week or eat “X” servings of vegetables. Joy is the fundamental feeling present in the sense of peace you get when sitting by the ocean or walking through the primordial woods.
Where is joy hiding in your life? If you’re thinking there’s no joy in your life, think again. Listen for children laughing and birds singing. Look for the precious comfort a mother gives her newborn or the rough-and-tumble of a father playing with his kids.
Recognize that you weren’t put here to suffer, no matter how dark and difficult your circumstances may be at the moment. Joy is all around you.
The magic of this journey begins when you let the joy inside. When you allow yourself to share in the beauty, the grace and the awesome wonder of the world through which you pass.
When you slow down and let that happen, you’ll realize the joy has been inside you all along. Let it out and watch what happens!
Keep the faith and keep after it!