By Rev. Jim Innes
On a fine winter day, I noticed a young toddler strolling hands-free beside her mother down a sidewalk. She (or maybe he) was wrapped cozily in a heavy, warm snowsuit. Each step was separated by a whoosh of her bulky pants. A little face beamed from out under the snuggly hood, seemingly impervious to the drag of the cumbersome outfit.
I was riveted by the sparkle of her playful energy, fascinated by her ecstatic pleasure. Many of us have long lost engaging life with such profound joy. Our hearts and minds are increasingly distracted by o so many things; busyness, stress, hardship, pain, loss, and on and on.
Many of us have developed a remarkable resiliency to life’s distractions. Yet still, we aren’t breathing as deeply as we once did. Muscles have tightened, and though this may help us get by, it limits our being fully engaged, and we inevitably bury some of the pleasure.
The toddler’s lighthearted spirit bubbled up from a natural spring inside her. No creed had to be recited, and no act of contrition was demanded. Its nature is reminiscent, perhaps even parallel to, the uninhibited innocence depicted by Adam and Eve, who lived large and carefree in the garden of Eden, and, maybe, additionally likened to the eastern concepts of Moksha and Nirvana.
We all seek a lighthearted and joyful experience in our daily walk. However, unlike toddlers, we also carry the burden of awareness. And like Adam and Eve, we must say goodbye to innocence.
However, despite that loss, I do believe, against all odds, there is a natural spring of light and life within us. A source of joy that will never dry up…no matter our adult condition. Perhaps seeking this inner connection is what some have called the search for the Holy Grail, a drink from the cup of life.
In the Christian church, this inner journey is commemorated by Lent and Easter. Lent is an annual 40-day prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday (for 2023, the dates are February 22 to April 6).
A well-used prayer goes like this, “Everlasting God, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our brokenness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission, and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord…
Lent leads into Easter (April 9), and Easter commemorates, in all manner of symbolism, reconnection to the joyful source, that ecstatic toddler within. In prayer, it is asked, “O God, we share in the light of your glory… inflame us with new hope. Purify our minds by this Easter celebration, and bring us one day to the feast of eternal light… .”
As I see it, we can return (in some measure) to the childhood pleasure of walking in a snowsuit on a bright winter’s day. We can drink from the cup of joy and experience ecstatic moments. However, we cannot, by any practice, simply be zapped back in time. The source of such pleasure is now a hero’s journey away.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.