“Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”
Ever since I saw the movie "The Greatest Showman" in 2017, I have been imagining and discussing my 40th birthday party. Mind you, when the movie came out, I had about five years to go until the big day. Some people thought I was ridiculous. I simply offered that it allowed everyone the appropriate amount of time to plan effectively. After all, facilitating a grand entrance on an elephant in an appropriately-sized circus tent might require a little lead time. You may call it vanity. I call it the same thing. As the big year arrived, life had taken some turns and there wasn’t as much energy around making sure an elephant was available in February. My lovely bride suggested we wait until the Spring so that our son’s cancer treatment would hopefully be over, people could be more comfortable outdoors, and all of our troubles would be far away. We also realized a fun-loving in-law would be turning 60 in May and we decided to jointly throw a blow-out entitled "The 60/40 Party." A committee was formed, big plans were concocted, there was even to be a tent and a dance floor. So that I could mentally prepare for the biggest show on earth this Saturday, I decided to catch an earlier flight home to give me two whole days. I landed at 1:00am to a text from my wife that COVID had finally reached our house. She and one of our daughters were down for the count. The next morning I sneezed and knew there would be only a 60th party. A gloomy cloud hung over the Cellucci household. There were tears, some yelling, and the occasional whimpering. The kids also shared some emotions. Given our mild symptoms, my wife suggested we all take a walk to a small and always empty playground. Begrudgingly we trekked in the 90-degree heat, the symptomatic keeping our distance. The playground was fine, but it was clear that the forced fun wasn’t doing the trick. We began our walk back. With little notice, dark thunder clouds roared in and within minutes a torrential downpour caught us umbrella-less on our journey home. I was trying to encourage those with little legs to run as fast they could, but they kept stopping. As I reached an overpass on the trail that provided some cover, I turned around to see my four children laughing and twirling around gleefully in rain so hard it would make Noah nervous. My wife and I joined in and suddenly there was no better dance floor than right there, no greater show on earth.
As Tricia and I shared a beer from our garage and continued to delight in their silliness, I couldn’t help but wonder where else in my life I might be missing the main attraction. I had envisioned this one celebration, this imaginary moment to be a place where I could find joy, where I could finally take a deep breath, relax, and let it all out. I was running through the storm so hard to get to cover when perhaps all I needed to do was throw up my arms and face to the Lord and thank Him for the rain. Is the proportion of our focus 60% on our destination and 40% on the journey or vice versa? Are we racing only toward some idyllic sunny day or can we embrace Teresa of Avila’s mantra that "all weather is good because it is God’s?" Perhaps this week we can put 100% of the focus, or at least the greater percentage, on giving thanks to God for even the things that feel like a circus.