By Steven Norris
How do you define “the good life?” Poll one hundred different people and you will no doubt end up with a multitude of answers ranging from an abundance of material goods, to not having to go to work, to the blessing of friends and family.
I was thinking about this recently as I reflected on the story of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” You may remember that the Israeli actor who made this role famous, Chaim Topol, died back in March of this year.
In the play, Tevye famously sings, “If I were a rich man…” and includes all the blessings that wealth would provide. However, his list includes some surprising elements as well: “If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack / To sit in the synagogue and pray, / And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall, / And I’d discuss the learned books with the holy men / Seven hours every day / That would be the sweetest thing of all!”
How many of us dream about having wealth so that we could afford to sit around studying the Bible and praying all day? This week, I had the privilege of spending time with a group of senior adults at a retreat on the coast. I met numerous men and women who used their well-earned “free time” and “wealth” (not necessarily material wealth) to reflect on the blessings of God and the ways they could use those blessings to serve others.
I was inspired by many of the conversations in which I was involved. I was impressed by the ways in which the Spirit of God had shaped and formed these individuals — allowing hardships and trials to polish and reveal in them a beauty that was likely masked throughout their younger years. I was impressed by how fully alive this group was, singing and living with gusto and deep passion.
The biblical scholar, Konrad Schaefer, once observed, “An individual is formed by what one loves and reflects on continually. What delights us invades us.” I love that last line. I have spent quite a bit of time mulling it over.
How many of us would say that we delight in our relationship with God? One some days, yes. On other days, I am not so sure. I cannot help but think that delighting in the Lord begins with an awareness of God’s blessings each day. It is welcoming the beauty of the sunrise and the feeling of fresh air filling my lungs. It comes from the taste of good food and laughter that erupts from the belly. It is found in deep, trusting friendships and a satisfying night of sleep.
The good life is the harvest gathered from those seeds of gratitude that are planted with every encouraging word that I speak to others. The good life is the sanctifying work of the Spirit that results from orienting my life around the source of all good things. May we all awaken to the abundance of such simplicity and find out just how rich we really are.