I feel guilty saying this – 2016 didn’t suck for me. It was hard in a communal sense and I sat in the tension of tragedy after tragedy and wept. But it also was an incredibly redemptive year personally. Starting in 2014, I moved back in with my parents. I had a cancer scare. I had two surgeries, less than 9 months apart. I was looking for a new job and I felt un-hirable. I was confused as to what I was doing wrong. I was frustrated at the lack of movement in my life. After close to two years of this, my life shifted overnight starting in early 2016. Someone hired me. I moved to Pasadena. I got to see an inordinate amount of amazing shows. I fell in love with church again. I started to work on the non-profit organization that has been in my heart since 2011. I lived into this year in ways I never had felt freedom to do so before. I was humbled continually by how God flipped my life (turned upside down). I felt grateful.
Towards the end of 2016 I dashed to the movies to see La La Land. It felt like it was created just for me – a movie musical, by a director I appreciate, set in the city I’ve come to love (LA). I’d been anticipating its release for months. And as I sat in the theatre and the camera panned across a sea of traffic, the music started and I teared up. Because this movie wasn’t just a movie. It was a celebration of this year. It was a celebration of my city. I squealed with delight as I watched actors dance across their cars and boast about the sunny LA weather.
In 2016, I celebrated.
Celebration is a discipline that we feel uncomfortable with in the church often. It may even strike you as odd that I refer to it as a discipline. Yet, we are so out of practice with celebrating with God, that we may find ourselves unsure how to even begin.
When I started to train as a spiritual director, it often felt like the goal was to get someone to cry. As directors, we’re helping individuals go deeper into their experience of God and it often can be incredibly intimate and emotional. However, I began to learn that sometimes, going deeper into an experience means celebrating with people as well. When you become aware of all the ways God is actively working in your life, when the dots get connected, shouts of joy and laughter are the outpouring of a grateful heart. I am reminded of the oft quoted passage from Ecclesiastes 3: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Verse four zeroes in on this idea of celebrating:
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Rather than try to make our realities something that they’re not, we sometimes just need to let sad times be sad (and mourn), and in times of joy, we need to laugh and dance. One isn’t better than the other. They are both normal and good responses, and are significant features in all of our lives (which probably comes as no surprise). Yet, even in seasons that are marked by grief or confusion, we can still practice celebration in small ways. We may not celebrate as boisterously as we do when we are in joyful times, but we can return to a place of gratitude. And it is in gratitude that we discover the fuel for the fire of celebration.
Two Ways to Start Practicing Listening in Your Life
- Identify one thing in life that you are grateful for. Find a special beverage (be that a La Croix Grapefruit, AKA Crack for Basic women, coffee, wine, etc.) and raise a toast to God in gratitude. You may want to gather a few people to join in your celebrations.
- Think about a time when you really celebrated. Maybe it was a wedding, a birthday dinner, or a New Year’s Eve party. What made it really feel like a celebration to you? Find a way to celebrate in that manner, again connected to something you are grateful for at this moment.