Joy in the Journey

“You don’t enjoy the journey,” my husband said recently.

Now, there’s a mull-worthy statement, especially coming out of the blue as it did, and it set my mind to contemplating what brings me joy. Was George correct in his observation or was he overlooking my enjoyment of the day-to-day?

Being task-oriented, I have a habit of listing things to accomplish and checking them off when completed. They don’t have to be big tasks: walking the dog, scrubbing the toilet, working on the grocery list. But some of them are important: mailing an encouraging card to someone in need, sending care packages to my children and grandchildren, or spending time with friends.

My day is generally comprised of 1) planning the tasks to be done, 2) doing the tasks, and 3) enjoying the fact that they are complete.

It’s true that I only use the word enjoy in the third activity, making that checkmark of completion. George, however, is wrong in assuming I don’t enjoy the planning and doing. 

With many of my tasks, I’m on autopilot; my mind is on other things so I don’t relish what I’m doing in the moment, like loading the dishwasher. Seriously, what is there to relish about that anyway? But it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment at finishing. Or my enjoyment in thinking about the next story I want to write and/or in praying for my sister’s recovery from surgery—the sorts of things occupying my mind while on autopilot.

Am I ever aware of joy while in the journey of doing? The first thing that comes to mind is picking up trash in my neighborhood. A local stonemason litters my neighborhood with advertisements every six months, dropping postcard-sized ads on the street at the foot of each driveway. Most of the neighbors don’t bother to pick them up and the cards stayed on the pavement for days, even weeks, blowing here and there. It drove me nuts. First of all, soliciting in neighborhoods is against city ordinance. Secondly, so is littering. Now, when the cards appear, I promptly walk the entire neighborhood, passing all two hundred twenty homes, to collect them, then toss them into the recycle bin. While walking, I sing songs, count my steps, pray, or let my mind go deliciously blank—an enjoyable process. It helps me meet my daily quota of at least five miles, helps me to relax, and helps to keep trash picked up in the ‘hood. 

What about journeying through a book? I love to read. Actually, that’s a gross understatement for someone who can easily get lost in a book for hours. Give me a Louise Penny murder mystery and I’m worthless until the last page. I prefer to read my own books; otherwise, I feel pressure to complete them quickly in order to return them to their owners. Do I fully enjoy reading? Yes, as long as it’s not a library book. And it has to be a real book in my hands. Not an e-reader. As you can imagine, my shelves are crammed full. 

Playing the piano? The cares of the world fall away when my fingers are dancing on the keyboard. I could play for hours—or at least until the pain in my arthritic fingers becomes unbearable.

Shopping for groceries? Sewing projects? Not much joy with the process for either of those. Just want to get ‘em done. Too many people at the grocery store for my cherished reverie, and too many frustrations with getting my old sewing machine to function properly.

I took a personality test and learned that I’m a type 6 on the enneagram, meaning fear is my constant companion. Worse-case scenarios won’t catch me off-guard because I will have already thought through, and planned for, anything that could possibly go wrong.

Perhaps that’s the reason it seems I don’t enjoy things while doing them: something may go wrong before the task is completed. George must wonder how I can enjoy an activity when he sees my anxiety. He’s the only person with whom I freely share my fears and being afraid must signal lack of enjoyment to him. But I gain from doing something in spite of my fears. It requires courage, strength, and stamina that can only come through God. I have to depend on Him to take that deep breath and step out in faith. While it may appear I’m not enjoying the path because my face doesn’t reflect a relaxed smile, I find peace in moving where God leads.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

So, I think through all the things that could go wrong in my plans for the day (a dose of Prozac is a great help). Most importantly, though, I pray, then continue on my way. I don’t know of a better practice to add joy to my journey.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *