Whining is an art form in our society. We complain about the winter weather: “Oh my gosh, it’s so cold. When will it ever stop?” Two months later, we grumble, “Oh my gosh, it’s so hot and humid. When will it ever stop?” We whine when trains and buses are late. We moan that people are rude, that the stock market hasn’t done well, and that the grocery store is out of our favorite item. I once heard a woman at Whole Foods complaining to the manager that they were out of her soy milk substitute. First of all, what is soy milk substitute? And second, why would anyone want one, much less have a favorite?
We tend to believe that life comes with a warranty that promises things will always be easy, fun and painless. And when they aren’t, we complain incessantly. The truth is that there are no guarantees in life. I recently saw a sign online that said it best. “Life*” was at the top, and the fine print beneath read: “*Available for a limited time only, limit one per customer, subject to change without notice, provided ‘as is’ without any warranties, your mileage may vary.”
We waste so much time complaining about the superficial things that we lose precious seconds, hours, days, even years. As the Jewish prayer says, “Days pass and years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.” We must be grateful in the good times and the bad, for, in the end, it’s still life.
The warning “life is short” is often greeted by eye rolls and shrugs. Yes, we’ve all heard this saying many times, and that’s part of the problem. We’ve heard it so much that we have become immune to the urgency in those three short words.
We don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next. We don’t know if we will be given tomorrow—or even the rest of today. Just look at the headlines: random shootings, suicide bombers, hurricanes and forest fires, an opioid epidemic, soaring cancer statistics.
Life is short.
It is also sacred.
The Psalmists offered this wisdom: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). Life is the greatest, most sacred gift we have. Sure, you may think that the inclement weather or the bus being late or the store being out of your soy milk substitute is important, but if you didn’t wake up this morning, then what difference would it make?
Life is short. Life is sacred. And because of that it should be celebrated in the good times and the bad. No matter where you find yourself—in the long line at the DMV, in the dentist chair or in the chemo room—it’s still life, and there is joy to be found in the simple taking of a breath and acknowledging the gift of the moment.
The author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Find that light. Strive to be grateful in all circumstances. Use your gratitude to inspire and lift up others who are mired in difficulty. We are not guaranteed that life will be easy or fun or painless. Yet even in the pain, we can be grateful for the profound gift of being alive.
And, if you find yourself struggling, use these few words as your mantra: “It’s still sacred. It’s still a gift. It’s still life.”
— — A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian and Baptist minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is a nationally known speaker, preacher and author specializing in the healing power of humor. Contact her through her website, www.SusanSparks.com.