Happy or joyous?
The past couple weeks have been extremely happy times personally. A very hard comment to make since every day I am watching the developments in the Ukraine which are so heartbreaking and inscrutable. Yet we acknowledge that in this life we often live in the tension between these extremes, these recent days being a strong evidence of that reality.
I have had two siblings, plus children and grandchildren visiting our home here in Florida for the first time since we bought it, so there was much to see and do! Each day was filled with so many activities and fun experiences, jam packed! From the very early morning walks with my sister to the beach days with the kids to the schmooze time in the evenings, I couldn’t have asked for more happy days.
Yet there was something missing. You may have noticed I did not write a Shabbat encouragement last week. I had no private time with HaShem. None. I lost the routines of my relationship with God, and so, my soul food, my tangible intimacy with Yeshua which sustains me. Before these busy times I had just started a regular routine of morning Shachrit, not to mention my decades long jog times with HaShem. I was even starting some evening prayers from the siddur. As much as I loved all of my extended family time, and was as happy as a person can be (when trying to not think about such sorrow in Ukraine), something was missing, something in me that helps me feel centered and able to feel connected to God. It wasn’t just not having the quiet moments with Him. It was something missing in me that made me realize I had work to do on myself.
These past weeks have given me a new appreciation for the Orthodox Jewish practice of praying three times a day, no matter what. Prioritizing time with HaShem is built into that way of life. Everything else comes second. We/I say that God is the center of my life, but it was clear to me that when life gets busier than usual, even when filled with good times, without an established routine I did not have the tools to bring God into my life meaningfully. Well, I had the tools. I was just failing to use them. And when I failed to do so , I felt His absence, not on His side, but on mine.
Throughout my days I did feel gratitude, and kept thanking Him for all that He has provided. Yet I was missing my sense of tranquility, that peaceful place that allows us to go on when the headlines are so troublesome. Without Him, the only way to deal with those bigger realities is to avoid thinking of them, or worse, fall victim to despair over the horrific realities. Staying faithful to our observances, to our relationship with HaShem at all times not only deepens our joy during happy days but loves us through and strengthens us during those darker times.
I was actually overwhelmed with thankfulness (thankfully!) which helped some. Being in a state of gratitude, which is from Him, made each day precious. As I had quiet time to reflect this week I marveled at how our Abba is so steadfast and constant. I was in awe of how He manages to be 100% present to all people all the time, never lacking on His side to be there for us, and how we/I can so easily let Him slip from our attention.
Over my 20 years at Ruach I’ve never understood how people who had felt so deeply Yeshua’s love could just slip away, or worse, deny His Messiahship. My recent lapse, not in faith but in attention, was a strong reminder of the slippery slope we walk. As in any relationship, staying strong in Him requires not just loving Him in words, but also, being faithful in our observances, prayer times, and ritual reminders, for we are so weak without them.
No doubt we can experience happiness. But feeling that amazing joy in Him, the ability to receive His Love tangibly, does take our participation. A relationship by definition, especially a deep love one, requires both sides to put the other first. He has clearly done that. Now how about us?