Watching a child open birthday presents is such a joy. They are “beside-themselves” excited. As they rip the bright wrapping paper away from the first gift, they quickly glance at the package inside. Just as quickly, they toss the revealed gift aside, reaching anxiously for the next present. “Wait,” you say. “Look what you were given. See how shiny it is? Hold it; isn’t it wonderful? Listen to the beautiful music it makes.” But your child is distracted by the better possibilities hidden within the other boxes wrapped in shiny, colorful paper.
Life is full of gifts that fall in continuous grace upon us. Our lives are lavished with blessings, yet we are just as children. Often as quickly as a gift is upon us, we are reaching anxiously for the next opportunity lest it pass us by and we miss out on something better. How many precious moments have slipped through our fingers because we did not take the time to relish them? How many gifts have rained down upon us, while we paid them no mind, busy stretching forward to what is next?
We can get caught up in the undertow of our experiences. Drifting along, our lives can become a fast-moving stream. For many of us, this is not merely a stream, but a white-water river churning and barreling over jagged rocks. You try to swim harder to keep your head afloat, not really steering your way, but merely being pulled along an uncontrollable, sometimes treacherous flow. You reassure yourself that at least you are moving forward. Others are in the river, too. They seem to be doing well, so this must be the way to keep moving ahead. As you keep working harder, you struggle and lose a little bit of footing. You take on more projects to be better than the next person; that should help gain more control. Your footing is now non-existent. The river feels foreign. You don’t feel in control, and you really don’t even know if you are succeeding at what you are trying to accomplish. But you are “accomplishing;” that is for sure. If achieving is success, then you should be happy and fulfilled. Are you? If you are, then you are deeply blessed. Keep swimming; you have found your purpose. If you are not, then perhaps you need to find a way to re-center yourself.
Getting swept up in the river of your life and career may lead to unhappiness if you don’t take time to enjoy the journey. What a travesty to be traveling along such a lovely landscape and not take the time to enjoy the gift of it all. Would your life or career suffer if you took the time to occasionally swim to the shoreline for a moment? Sit on the bank and listen to the birds. Touch the prickly grass under your fingertips. Breathe in the smell of the cool air. Look above you at the tree canopy with the sunlight dancing through the leaves. How your heart would dance. Oh, how your soul would sing. Think of the memories you could make, fully enjoying the gifts of this life. What memories are you creating with those around you? Will their memories be of how hard you worked within the river of life, or of those abounding moments when you stopped and enjoyed the “gifts” along the way?
Contrary to what you might think, taking time to be still and present won’t cause you to miss anything important. The rushing river of your career is still there, waiting for your next twist and turn. The flow of life can wait for you to unwrap the moment and enjoy the blessings along the stream. Opportunities will not cease to come your way just because you take the time to enjoy the journey. Your purpose will be fulfilled. Trust in yourself. You have come this far. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you knew everything would work out well? The common quote is “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Well, if you couldn’t fail (and I know you, you won’t), you would be free to take time and swim to the shore occasionally. When you find stillness and presence in the current moment, you can look-see-touch-smell every aspect of the gifts around you. Often this will clear your mind and remind you of your “why” for this journey in the first place. When you take the time to enjoy the journey and focus on your “why,” you can make clearer decisions when you are in the throes of the river of life.
Stop and take time to be still and enjoy your gifts and blessings. You don’t always have to be working harder to get there first, to be the best, to do more, to reach anxiously for the next opportunity. Don’t get to the waterfall of your life and look back to see the beauty of the river bank that passed you by. Wouldn’t it be better to float away with a smile on your face remembering all of the deep, amazing blessings you fully enjoyed, and yell, “WOW, what a ride!”