It was a wonder-full moment.
Our family of six sat around the kitchen table playing a board game. I can’t recall the context, but part way through the game someone spoke just the right words, at just the right moment, and we burst into laughter. All of us at once just started cracking up and the room seemed to explode with joy! My mind freeze-framed the image – glee on the face of my 10-year-old daughter; head-back laughter bursting from a sullen teenager; delight erupting in a shriek from the 8 year-old; my wife of 23 years giggling like a care-free child; a 12-year-old’s mouth in a large “O,” eyes sparkling with brightness. It was a perfect outburst of love and joy somehow made deeper and richer because we were all in it together. It was awesome, and impossible to fully describe.
And then it was gone.
Like all of life’s best moments, it could not be maintained or captured – only experienced. You had to be there. I wish it was different. Oh man, if only I could have bottled-up that moment and kept it in a jar in my office to experience again! Imagine opening the lid and out would flow all of the emotion, sound, and sights of that slice of delight – what a gift that would be!
Instead, I have a fading memory that brings a sad smile. A smile for how wonderful it was and a sadness that the experience is gone. Like some bitter-sweet twist, the best moments of our lives seem to slide away just when we try to get a grip on them. Fleeting moments of joy, contentment and purpose are gifts that bless our days but just when we reach out to hold them they seem to dissolve. Like trying to hold water in your fingers or grab a hand-full of steam, our best moments are elusive. In fact, even trying to capture them seems to somehow strip the fullness from them. These days we seize in photos and video much of our lives, and yet no technology will ever be able to hold the experience of happiness on file. It is as if the forces of time have collaborated to ensure that best gifts in our life can only be found in the present. It can be kind of depressing.
And yet, on this first day of Advent I am choosing to put that memory to work and allow it to grow my hope. After all, we are hope-based creatures. Inside the deepest part of us there is a longing to know that some good and better future is waiting up ahead. Our hope-instinct desires to take the seeds of our best moments and almost immediately begin to image the possibilities that could occur if only they were given a chance to fully bloom.
What if our family could feel that kind of joy together forever?
What if we were always that united and present and free?
Could our most precious slices of living be both a gift in the present and a glimpse of the future?
I choose to hope so.