I am sitting at the front of an ocean liner looking out over the most beautiful expanse of blue one could ever lay their eyes upon. I’ve been told this part of the ship is called the bow. (That’s for you curious ones out there.) The wind is lightly blowing my hair and I’m nice and comfy sitting in the shade. There are folks buzzing all around me and laughter is bubbling up in every conversation that is within my capacity of hearing.
Life is good.
I just had an employee by the pool where I am sitting ask me if I needed anything. My answer was “no thanks.” I am in need of nothing. I just left a buffet where every type of food that I always want but am never willing to cook at home is available to me. Pan after pan of delicious delights just sitting there at the perfect temperature beckoning me to taste them. And, of course, I reason, I should taste them, someone worked hard to prepare it for me. Well, for me and the four thousand other folks that are on this floating city.
As I am gingerly balancing my plate that is ready to topple over from all of the food piled on it, I am stopped by yet another employee, “is there anything else I can get for you, ma’am?” She parrots the question of the previous employees. I look at my ridiculously filled plate and sheepishly say, “No, thank you, I’m fine.”
What else could I possibly need?
This morning I started the day with a yoga type stretch with a nice young fellow from New Zealand named Gert. He was cheery and peppy and helped us tie ourselves into a pretzel promising it would wake our senses and make the day feel so much more “alive.” As I was in down dog all I could think was “I’m floating through the ocean, the sky couldn’t be bluer, I have people with me that I love dearly and I don’t have to lift a finger to do any real work for a week. How much more alive can I get?”
Thank you Gert for the morning pep talk, I’ll definitely be back for the pretzel stretches tomorrow.
Yesterday, a very nice lady introduced herself in the hallway right outside our stateroom and told us to let her know if there was anything else we might need she would be happy to comply. My mind immediately spun with the thought “lady, you’re cleaning my room, making my bed and sanitizing the bathroom. What else could a person want?” But I quickly said, “Okay, thank you, we’ll let you know.” Not to mention she leaves chocolate on the pillows at night. She’s my favorite.
Is this real life?
I find myself thinking how wonderful it would be to have this kind of treatment all of the time. I daydream and wish I were part of the rich and famous. The ones who don’t have to clean their own bathrooms or clean up the kitchen after a long day at work. You know the ones who don’t have to pump their own gas in the car or wash their own clothes.
The ones who live the good life.
I’ve never actually seen one of these people in person, I’ve heard of them and watched shows about them on TV. You know the show I’m talking about, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” What was the guy’s name who hosted it? I can never think of it. Did you watch it? And did you wish you could live in that five gazillion square foot mansion with the swimming pool the size of a small lake in the back yard? And of course it all comes with a ready to please you staff, including gourmet chef, and Gert for your morning pep stretch.
Those people certainly live the good life.
But, even as I sit here and write about what life might be like if I were more like someone else, or had more things or more of this or that, I am convicted to stop and really consider what it means to have the good life.
I’ve always thought of the good life as exactly what I’ve seen here on this floating lap of luxury, or on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” But, with age and loss and maturity I’ve begun to see things a little differently. There is certainly nothing wrong with having things or enjoying life, but I’m convinced that none of those things is what defines the good life.
So, what is the good life?
This afternoon we went into Cozumel, Mexico and rode in dune buggies along the countryside. I’ve never been there before. After a short drive, we stopped along the way to snorkel. It’s the first time I’ve ever snorkeled and I freely admit I was a little unnerved by the idea. But, lately my mantra has been, “you only live once,” so I went for it. I went through the short tutorial that showed me how to use my mask, inflatable life jacket and flippers. Then he showed us the hand signals in case we got into trouble and needed immediate attention. I paid special attention to this part.
Once the tutorial was over, we headed down to the sea. When I stepped into water I nearly lost my footing on the uneven bottom. I had to sit down in the water on the rough rocks to put on my flippers all the while balancing my mask and trying to keep it from going under water. I am not sure why this mattered to me as I could have easily emptied the snorkel, but I was determined to keep it up. Why didn’t I put it on my head you ask? Good question. I cannot even imagine what I looked like, but, I find comfort when thinking back on it at the unflattering fact that I was in good company. There were plenty of us sitting there being tossed around by the current trying to get our flippers on.
Stay with me here, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.
When flippers were finally donned and with mask and snorkel in place I began to try and walk to join the rest of my group further out in the ocean. All I can say is Daffy Duck, that’s what I must’ve looked like trying to lift those now fifty pounds apiece flippers up and down and make forward progress under the water. “Walk backwards” the guide had said, so I tried turning around, can you guess what happened next? Yep, fell straight back, the snorkel went under water and it was at this moment that I decided to take a deep breath. I came up out of the water coughing and spitting water, but because I was too embarrassed to be noticed or “helped” I nearly strangled in utter silence. No using the international “help” sign for me.
It’s amazing what pride will do for a person. Nearly killed me today.
It took a few false starts, but I finally got out to the group and began to snorkel with the rest, not the best, of them. Before I put my mask covered face under the water for the first time I was really wrestling with thoughts of “is this really worth it?” But, once I looked at the bottom of the sea, all the effort, strangling and work was suddenly a dim memory. It was totally worth it. I never knew the bottom of the sea was so incredible. God has placed beauty all around us everywhere, even the bottom of the sea where so few will ever see it.
He is amazing.
We spent a while discovering the mysteries below us and then it was time to get back into our dune buggies and continue our ride around the island. We drove along a highway surrounded by trees for quite a while and then suddenly our view opened up to the expanse of the ocean. The water was so clear and blue, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Miles and miles of it. More beauty and again I thought how wonderful our God is to create this magnificent, powerful ocean. As our drive continued, we passed more trees and more water and finally into a populated area. It was a stark contrast to what we had just seen. Homes that were barely standing, rubble, debris, old rusty cars stacked up along the side of the road.
It was quite a shock.
And yet, nearly every one of the people I saw were smiling or engaged in a conversation with another. Not at all what I would expect to see in what I would’ve defined as poverty. Folks were walking their pets, riding their mopeds, shopping, and walking the streets; the fabulous smell of homemade tortillas filled the air. My heart was struck by how shallow I had been earlier.
I love when the Lord keeps me straight. Well, I love that he loves me enough to keep me straight, that’s a more accurate statement. And that’s exactly what he did in the moments that followed. He began to open my mind and heart to an old truth that needed to be refined in me.
I’m not sure I can adequately define what the good life IS, but I can tell you what it is NOT.
It is not having a fabulous mansion in the best part of town, it is not about having the most popular clothes and brands, and it is not about what you drive or how much you’re pampered. As a matter of fact it is not about things at all. None of the above mentioned are wicked or bad, but they are not what fill us with laughter, peace, fulfillment or love.
No THING can do that.
So, for me, the good life is MY life. My regular, very “unglamorous” simple life. The one where I get up and go to work so I can help provide for my family. Where I come home and pretend I can cook and then clean up the kitchen afterwards. Where I clean my own bathrooms and make my own bed. It’s the life that I live every day, the simple, the complicated, the gains, and the losses, all of it. It all blends together to make a beautiful story. Maybe yours is big and beautiful and obvious to those around you just like the gorgeous Caribbean Sea that we drove by today. Or maybe your life is quieter and more private like the bottom of the ocean that I glimpsed today. Just as beautiful but not as obvious. It is all good.
Because LIVING life IS the good life.
We get a short number of years on this planet, I’m purposing in my heart not to spend them looking around me wishing I had something more or that I could live someone else’s life. I have so much in the people that the Lord has given me and the lives he allows me to be a part of. And I bet if you looked around you, you could say the same thing. Give it a try.
Well, I’m going to enjoy every last minute of this vacation and then I’ll post pictures on social media so my friends can see some of the sights I saw. And I’ll be so appreciative that they care about me and my life. Then I’ll get up on Monday and go to work and keep on living. Hopefully go on appreciating the life God has given me.
Sadly, I won’t get my morning pep talk from Gert, he has to stay on the ship. Maybe I’ll record him as a reminder to keep stretching and trying so I can feel more “alive.” Why not?
After all, life is good.