Jar Full of Seashells
They say, "Things can't make you happy" and I get it, I really really do. I know so well what it is to fight for joy in your soul. I know so completely that joy and peace are a choice and that if I don’t make that choice, no thing can get me there. I know that joy and peace are completely attainable for those with absolutely zero THINGS to their name. I know that things even sometimes hold the power to rob us of joy when we cling to them too tightly. So I really do get the whole, “stuff can’t make you happy."
It’s really about our joy and peace being an active pursuit, something we relentlessly participate in the creation of and the maintenance of. That pursuit goes by all kinds of names in many different cultures, the joy and peace that comes from just being. The Christian faith tradition often refers to it as "the kingdom of God" and that title is beautiful to me. It’s a place, the place where we can go and dwell there, a place where God's peace reigns supreme, no one rules there but God. A place where love and light and life are so strong that not even death can put a stop to them. Yes. So much yes.
But also, I love things. I love ice cold champagne and the glass that holds it. I love my rose garden. I love the photo of my grandmother that rests beside a book about the place where my family history began. I love the jar full of seashells right next to it. And I love the water table my three year old splashes in. I love my cowboy boots and my gold dangly earrings. I love make-up. God, I love make-up. I love things. I love stuff. And they do make me happy. On some level. On some divine-God-gave-this-earth-to-me-and-I-shall-love-her level.
And yes, if I don't do the work, the very real and grueling and gratifying and worth it work of finding organic joy, joy that comes from merely being, then no amount of things will make me happy. But if I do the work AND looooooove things, maybe that is the warrior's way. To love it all and eat it up like cake. To need it even. I need my candles and my essential oils and my plants and my picture frames and paint and paper and dirt and wine and rocks and all the touchable stuff. I struggle through my days to find joy, make joy, be joy, to live inside of God's reigning peace. Yes. But also things. Both. Forever.
We do not live on bread alone, but we do partially live on bread. Bread and tacos, eggs benedict with arugula and balsamic glaze. Things sustain us and God built us that way. To need. To hunger and to thirst. If tomorrow all the things burn away, then come mysterious joy of being like rain. But as it is, we live on a ball of dirt, a ball of dirt God made and then created us out of pieces of its sky. So to revel in all that we have here is a part of the Kingdom where God reigns.
You know those people who get really excited about the seemingly smallest things? My eight year old son Tai is and always has been like that. A little purple sticker shaped like a star can make his day THE BEST DAY EVER! Maybe some of that is personality quirk, sure, but also I think that’s the spirit of the living God stirring about inside of him and available to all of us. To delight in a vintage tea cup. To leap with joy over a paint brush. To really be aware of what we hold in our hand or touch with our feet or taste with our tongue. That IS organic joy, that IS organic peace. To be arrested by all that our senses take in.
When they say, “stuff can’t make you happy” I get that idea, I do but I just think maybe a bigger idea would be to erase the false dichotomy of physical vs spiritual because we’re all here on the dirt, in the stuff, needing, hungry, thirsty, noticing beauty, being drawn to beauty. So it’s all spiritual.