I have a friend who signs all of her emails with the phrase, “Joy for the journey.”

If you knew her, you’d think the sign-off was perfect. She’s one of those rare people who seems to be filled with joy regardless of what’s happening in her life.

But the more I fall in love with the idea of the journey, the more I realize just how complicated it is.

In my experience, journeys – both metaphorical and otherwise – are rarely joyous.

Perhaps I’m just speaking for myself, but the majority of the journeys I’ve been on have been either arduous and boring or painful and difficult – full of the kind of life lessons I would rather not have had to learn at the time.

Earlier this year, I visited Zambia with a not-for-profit organization aimed at empowering young girls to overcome the cultural barriers facing those who live in the country’s rural areas.

The trip was amazing. We visited a school where children were thriving because of access to education. Girls I’d never met raced down the dirt road to the guesthouse where I was staying, eager to show me around and sing me the songs they’d learned in school.

I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced more joy than I experienced on that trip. But the journey? It was 13 hours with two layovers on full flights – one stuffed in a row where none of us spoke a word of one another’s languages.  Even with the window seat, it was hardly an occasion for joy.

But, of course, as much as I look forward to joyous moments, I recognize that most of life happens in the journeying.

Too often I’m waiting for a difficult moment to be over or for one challenge or another to work itself out. Too often I find myself saying I “can’t wait” to spend time with my family, to hang out with friends during the weekend.

In August, before he took over the “Late Show” on CBS, Stephen Colbert sat down with a reporter from GQ magazine who asked him about one of those most difficult moments in his life.

When Colbert was just 10 years old, his father and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash. Interviewer Joel Lovell wrote, “We eventually got around to the question of how it could possibly be that [Colbert] suffered the losses he’s suffered and somehow … doesn’t exhibit any of the anger or open-woundedness of so many other comedians … .”

“‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’” Colbert said. ‘Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it … . That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.’

Learning to love the bomb – that’s an aspect of the journey I’ve yet to master.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things God has given me. But the terrible? The tedious and mundane? That’s a lot harder.

This Thanksgiving I’m challenging myself to be thankful for all of it – every flat tire, every traffic jam, every “bomb,” no matter how painful it might be.

I’ll be thankful because I know every good thing I’ve been given was the result of a thousand uneventful, boring – even bad – things.

I’ll be thankful because I know all that I’ve been given is holy.

I’ll be thankful because I know that the fact that I even exist is a miracle.

I’ll be thankful because God is good and worthy to be praised.

Sarah Carson
Sarah Carson is an associate editor for Gather, the magazine of Women of the ELCA, and a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, Ill.

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