I paused, considering, then answered:

“Sure, I think going fishing sounds great and I’d love to go with you. We can do that after dinner, once we get our stuff put away.”

The child let out a little sigh,

“No, that’s ok. I don’t want to go fishing later. I only want to go right now.”

I smiled. I know that attitude. It’s the same I often sport, the same one a different child had donned just moments ago when she sighed about the dinner menu. She had hoped for bean burritos, not chicken legs.

Downcast face. *sigh*

I smiled, and told them I had a secret to share with them. A secret that would serve them well all their days if they’d remember it. They leaned in a little, a bit skeptical, but willing to listen.

I held my hands up in front of me, palms closed together like a prayer posture, then separated them about 4 inches apart.

“See this sliver here, between my hands. This narrow space between my palms represents all the things that are exactly as we want them to be. This is getting to fish at precisely the moment we have the urge, this is the meal we most want, this is the game I want to play, the plans I want to keep, the way I want it to go. This represents the circumstances I must have in order to be happy.

When I have high preferences, picky tastes, particular wants, I narrow down this slice of life with which I can be happy. My joy becomes very narrow. Every time I narrow in on what I want, I exclude more and more of life that I’ll be eligible to enjoy. Pretty soon, there isn’t much left. That’s narrow joy.

They were listening. Then I slowly widened my hands, out, out, out, until my arms were stretched wide, as far as I could reach, palms no longer facing inward, but stretched out, like a giant embrace of life. I smiled into their faces.

THIS is what happens when we let go of our high preferences, our picky tastes, our particular wants. This is what happens when we say, “Well, this isn’t my favorite food, but I’m so glad I get to eat. It’ll do just fine.” When we say, “Well, I’d love to this activity now, but I’m grateful I’ll get to do it at all.” When we say, “That’s not the way I’d like it done, but I’m grateful we get to do it together, and it’s better than being alone.”

This is what happens when we decide that no matter what way it happens, we’ll be grateful. We’ll make do. This makes all of life eligible as a source of joy. This means circumstances can vary widely without depleting our joy. This is WIDE JOY.

They understood. And so did I. And we munched our meal with gladness, and fished ’til past bedtime, and we will continue to pursue wide joy with all our hearts.

{Thanks for reading.}

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”

Philippians 4:12

  • Jennifer

    I love this! What a great visual and explanation.

  • Beautiful. My daughter started talking about the holidays yesterday. I’m going to use this next time she begins complain that she can’t have a $500 American Girl kitchen.

  • Brett Elizabeth Spore

    Wow. What a great and simple way to present contentment.

  • Pingback: Wide, Wider, Widest Joy (Psalm 65) | RENEW Church()

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