January 10, 2023

From the Rector…

There is a lot wrong with the world and there is a lot that is right. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to get focused on the negative. I don’t know if it is a product of too much social media or our ability to know what is happening around the globe at a few clicks of the keyboard, but our information overload coupled with an inherited survival instinct that heightens our awareness of potential threat in the world has led us to a place of anxiety and depression. We were headed that direction before the pandemic, but the pandemic served to sully the negative feelings that we cling too and drive us into ever darker places.

The truth about the darkness is that no matter how dark it gets, the light will shine in it. John promises us that in his gospel, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” Our challenge is not simply to see the light, it is to spread it. We are called to be gospel bearers—those who carry the Good News to others. It is hard to do that when we are hiding our own lights under bushel baskets or allowing Satan to “blow it out”. To be bearers of the Good News is more than just talking about who Jesus was, we must talk and live in such a way as to invite people to see who Jesus is. When I examine the gospels, I don’t find that many places where Jesus is belly-aching about the world. Instead, I read about all the places and times that Jesus made the world better. Most of Jesus’s words and actions are about building up others, even in the midst of political crisis and economic upheaval, not tearing them down.

It is hard to be like Jesus—especially when all the world is telling us bad news. And though we can find ourselves surrounded by suffering and complaint that attempts to extinguish our flame, there are ways in which we can discover the truth about ourselves and the world that helps to feed the flame of hope and joy and light in our own lives and in the world. 

I am not a big fan of the “power of positive thinking” or the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach to life. Those work for some and may well be the way some of us need to approach the world. I prefer a different approach, an approach that leads toward flourishing. To flourish in life is to find a joy that does not depend on happiness and a peace that sustains us through suffering. That requires a certain amount of skill development and intentionality in understanding who we are and how we approach life. One of the easiest ways (though it will take some thoughtfulness, effort, and discipline) is the “what-went-well” approach.

To practice “what-went-well” simply take a few moments every night, maybe after supper or right before bed, and think about some of the things that went well over the course of the day. Pick at least one, write it down, and then offer some reasons why that went well. Work up to journaling three “what-went-well” moments every night. As this practice becomes habitual, you will also become more intentional about noticing the good moments of the day. And the more you focus on the good moments of the day, the less inclined you are to become distracted by an overwhelming sense of negativity when faced with the not-so-good-moments of the day. Your approach to those things that don’t go your way will become less critical to your own sense of happiness and well-being and you will probably even discover new ways to cope with the challenges and sufferings of life.

If you do desire a life that is less negative and less focused on all that is not right with the world and want to grow in ways that lead to greater happiness and well-being, I not only recommend the what-went-well exercise, but the book Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman.  His approach toward positive growth development is inspiring and powerful. He offers a way to manifest a life that is non-resistant, seeing possibilities instead of constraints; a life that shines the light of Good News to others.

Light and Life,