This month at Youth Group, before we began our closing prayer, the leader asked us each to name one good thing that had happened in the last week. Immediately, the brows of each person in the room (adults included) furrowed as we tried to think back about something good in a sea of busyness. Some of us struggled to remember anything good. Others immediately burst forth with a fun thing they had gotten to do. Some shyly shared an accomplishment for which they were proud. And some were more abstract, like the beauty of the fall foliage.
I was struck by how each one of us in the room had to think quite hard about something good happening in our lives. I do not think we struggled because there is nothing good. I think we struggled because our brains, or maybe our culture, has wired us to do the opposite – to complain about all the things going wrong, to see only the imperfections in life or in ourselves, to be discouraged by all that could be better in our circles. A heart of gratitude or joy takes work. Some of us come by gratitude and joy naturally, but most of us have been enculturated to see where there is want. That’s why one of our favorite prayers from Compline has a line in its petitions to God for God to “shield the joyous.”[i]
As we approach Thanksgiving Day next week, I wonder if this year you are still struggling to find the joy. Maybe you still cannot gather safely with family, maybe you are worried about the safety of the children or the vulnerable in your family, or maybe you are just weary from this time of pandemic. I suspect many of us are feeling critical of the imperfect and are having a hard time holding on to the perfect(ly good enough).
My prayer for you this week is that God shields your joy. But I invite you to consider partnering with God in this endeavor. Each day until Thanksgiving Day, before you drift off to sleep, think back to one thing for which you grateful, that gave you joy, or was just a good moment. The goodness does not have to be big or creative. Start with something basic. While you engage in this prayerful practice, I will be praying that God shields your joy, and I hope you will share your joy with someone else – so they can be shielded by God too.
[i] Book of Common Prayer, 134.