We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
At the end of your life you will be asked to give an account for all of the pleasures God allowed you, but you refused to enjoy.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw that quote, tucked into a book by Roger Housden. I liked it immediately. I tried to find the source of those words, but couldn’t find them.
Later, I saw it in an Oprah magazine, attributed to the famous writer Anonymous.
Regardless of the source, the words rang true to me — and important, especially since I had spent my childhood years envisioning standing in a long line to report my sins to God before I could be approved for Heaven. Thankfully, my understanding of God has changed through the years, and while I no longer imagine Heaven with any of the childhood images of my childhood, I do understand practically the unrelenting reality of cause and effect, payback and the pain of having to live with consequences of my actions.
Thankfully, I have taken this quote by Anonymous seriously, especially as I have allowed my God-concept to change into one that is more consistent with the compassionate, forgiving, gracious and merciful love of God that is all through the scriptures. I have come to understand that we are punished more by our sins than for them, and I have learned that God’s wrath so dramatically pictured in the Old Testament is redemptive wrath. What that means is that I believe more and more as I learn that God really is at work in all things, working for good.
Exploring the idea of “dancing with God” as I did the research and reflection to write Dance Lessons: Moving to the Beat of God’s Heart. The more I pondered the concept of dancing with God, the more I understood this beautiful question. Because I was not allowed to dance when I was growing up, dancing is something I have learned to love. Moving to the beat of God’s heart, an idea inspired by John Phillip Newell and the spirituality of the Celtic traditions, has healed something deep within me, and so I resonate with the idea of an end of the day examen that focuses on what delights I have been offered instead of what sins have I committed.
(I must add that I still look for the ways I have hurt others or myself during the day. I still ask for forgiveness–often. I still work with my codependency issues, my stubborn flaws, my character defect, my mistakes and my sins. I do carry within me, however, a statement my special friend Frank Pool gave me, which he attributed to his mother: The bigness of God’s forgiveness is greater than any sin we can commit.
This beloved quotation, then, is one of the most important I have ever heard. Indeed, God has granted us so many beautiful gifts in creation, day after day. He has given us laughter so that we can enjoy what is funny, delightful, surprising or outrageous. He has given us the capacity to receive his gifts intended for our pleasure through our eyes and ears, our sense of smell and taste, as well as our ability to feel the warmth of a loved one’s hand, the pleasure of a beautiful thing we can hold and the weight of a baby’s sleeping body next to our own hearts. The list of pleasures, indeed, is endless.
God has also given us the capacity to feel appreciation, to experience pleasure and to enjoy our lives every day. If I’m doing any of those important things, I have to ask myself why I deprive myself of so much goodness. What is blocking me from enjoying my own “one wild and precious life” to the fullest? Am I really too lazy or too fearful to experience pleasure? Or, am I afraid of looking foolish, wasting time, or going too far away from duty, responsibility and my almighty schedule?
And why is it that I cannot receive God’s forgiveness or forgive myself for something I deep unforgivable? Do I really think that my own sin is so special that it is excluded from the mercies of God, mercies that are new every morning? Am I such a case that God’s grace cannot redeem me?
So, at the end of the day, why not take a scan of your day and ask yourself questions such as these as part of your personal inventory?
Did I allow myself to take time to give myself compassion when I needed it?
Was there a moment when I blew off a compliment, thereby missing the lift it could have given me and discounting the giver’s intent?
In what moment of this day did I rush through a meal without taking time to savor it or ponder gratitude for having plenty to eat?
Did I spend too much time listening to things that unnecessarily upset me instead of taking time to savor a piece of music that I love, pausing to hear the wind blowing through the leaves, reading a good book, taking an invigorating walk — and on and on?
Where was God attempting to get my attention in order to show me something beautiful or love me through a child, an older person, a friend….but I was too rushed, too busy, too preoccupied to take just a moment to experience the gift of God to me?
Am I depleted, feeling unloved, playing the martyr or feeling resentful because I don’t allow myself to participate in the things that give me pleasure because I’m so busy doing other things, tending to the wheel that squeaks the most and missing what is really the most important part of my life?
At the end of the day, how would you answer if someone asked you, “So, tell me, what pleasures that God has offered you have you refused to allow yourself to enjoy? Are they gone forever, or can you reboot and try again?
No matter what, I’m learning to bet on God’s unending mercies. No matter how bad I feel about something I did or said at the end of the day, I’m giving myself to God, surrendering my will and my life, as well as my wrongs to his will. I’m placing my hope in what I know is true: Love wins.
Grace to you —