Finding Joy in the Journey
Just recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to head from our home in Southeastern Idaho to visit our oldest son and his wife in Western Oregon. We were very excited to see them again and spend several days visiting the area surrounding where they live.
As we embarked on the roughly fourteen and a half hour journey, we tried to prepare ourselves with plenty of snacks for the road, several uplifting audio books and podcasts and the excitement of seeing some things we had not witnessed before, along with the time we could spend with our children.
The trip was filled with many wonderful experiences including:
Stopping to visit my maternal grandparents’ graves, which I had not been to since their funerals many years ago.
Catching up with my Uncle and Aunt who I hadn’t seen in a long time.
Seeing the kids and playing lots of fun games and having some wonderful visits and life discussions.
Eating at some new places, which along with the road snacks, probably contributed to a significant weight gain during the experience as well.
Getting to know the wonderful town of Bandon, Oregon with its beaches and lighthouses.
Unfortunately some significant forest fires prevented us from visiting several other places we would have loved to go, but all in all the experience was wonderful. We packed a lot into the days we were there and it was all tremendous fun!
The most depressing part of the trip was facing the long drive home, which when combined with several needed pit stops for both the car and ourselves would take nearly 15 hours.
During this final stage of the journey, my wife and I had just finished listening to some inspiring podcasts and were engaged in some discussion and pondering over the content and how our own lives fit into the things we were considering. You know, purpose of life stuff and the times in which we live, etc… All good stuff, but things which stretch you sometimes and make you consider where you are and what things you need to improve on.
It was during this point, when my wife requested to pull off on a short side road to visit a waterfall that was marked alongside of the highway – Sahalie Falls.
It was just a short distance from the road but as soon as we got out of the car and began to walk up the short path, something magical happened. The trees were a lush and verdant green, and the path was well taken care of and had the feel you were walking into Rivendell from the Lords of the Rings or something of that nature. The plants and bushes swayed in a gentle, cool breeze and the sounds of wildlife were plentiful as they rang out through the entire area.
The waterfall was only a short distance down the path and when we saw, it literally took our breath away.
It wasn’t the biggest waterfall we had ever seen or visited, not by a long shot, but it was surprising that walking down the trail and seeing it was actually a spiritual experience of a sort.
We had been involved in some good, motivating and uplifting events and discussions, so it caused me to think about what had happened, and why it was such an inspiring experience. What had changed?
After some consideration while we were there, and in the continued drive which followed, I came to the conclusion that what we had experienced was simple, natural, heaven-sent JOY!
But how could this be? We had been engaged in many fun and exciting events, spent some time with great company, and had listened to and talked about many wonderful and spiritual things – all of which were very positive and uplifting in their own right, but what we experienced at the waterfall with didn’t involve any logic or thought or effort – it was simple JOY.
It might wound weird to some, but what I believe we experienced was God’s creations – the waterfall itself flowing freely and cascading in effortless patterns; the bushes, trees, flowers swaying in rhythm with the natural breeze around them while reaching outward and upward, in harmony with each other and the unseen air while breathing in and out through their natural processes; the birds, chipmunks and wildlife all scurrying about and singing their songs; the stones in the path grateful to be there in that setting to support the feet of those who walked upon them to behold the scene.
All of these things in their own small and God-given way, were singing and manifesting their praises to the Lord who had created them – and it was palpable – and it had a direct impact on our souls as well. They weren't concerned about the cares of the world around them. They weren’t involved in higher levels of thought, schedules and timelines or planning. They were simply fulfilling the measure of their creation and filled with and radiated JOY to be doing so!
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully acknowledge and understand that life isn’t always a peaceful and joyous waterfall setting, and that trials, challenges and growth are part of this journey called mortality. But the simple lesson I was taught in that setting was that perhaps at times, we need to stop being so concerned about all of the worries and cares of things around us, and instead take some time to simply experience the JOY that can be found in fulfilling the measure of our creation.
“Men are that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25
Please don’t take this as a sign that you can just sit around and sing Kumbayah all day and not have to do anything. That is not at all what I am suggesting. But what I am suggesting is that we should take time to recognize the JOY that is manifest all around us each and every day.
I truly believe that JOY, light and a life force is truly radiating, penetrating and affecting all living things around us and extends through the expanse of space and time. You can call it the “Light of Christ”, the “Love of God” or whatever you choose to call it. But I think if we are not careful we can be completely blind to its influence and uplifting power if we get too distracted and dulled by the worldly influences around us.
Instead, perhaps we can tune into these other frequencies of JOY, not only in nature, but also in the lives of others around us, and YES, perhaps even within ourselves. Because I believe this positive force of love and joy is there to help us remember The Source of all of that Joy and Love – and to help keep us on the path which leads back into His presence.