Begin Joyful Living by Making Your Bed
We all desire a life filled with joy. The question is, how do we achieve that? The answer lies in small, specific, intentional choices that make the world a little better and allow the love of God to overflow into the lives of others.
Some say you can begin joyful living with simple and productive tasks such as making your bed. Admiral William H. McRaven, United States Navy (retired), gave the commencement speech at the University of Texas in 2014. In his speech, he described ten lessons he learned from basic training as a Navy SEAL. The ten lessons added value to his life; he hoped the lessons would also add value to each UT graduate’s life.
The first lesson Admiral McRaven shared was, “if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” After describing the characteristics of a well-made bed, McRaven said:
If you made your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made, that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. So, if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
If John the Baptist had lived during this century, he might have offered similar advice. John preached direct messages of baptism and repentance, pointing people toward Christ with specific actions.
In Luke 3, John baptized people and Jesus at the Jordan River. After he baptized three different groups, each group asked him the same question: “what should we do?”
Each group received a different response from John. He told the crowds, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:11, New Revised Standard Version)
He told the tax collectors, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” (Luke 3:13, NRSV)
He told the soldiers, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” (Luke 3:14, NRSV)
John provided not general responses but specific tasks. In ministry, John and Jesus often gave specific instructions toward repentance and service. In John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well to go call her husband and come back. In Matthew 19, Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he possessed. Like Jesus, John’s specific responses led each group to experience God’s love in new ways.
In her book “Wholehearted Faith,” Rachel Held Evans wrote, “Nobody wants to be loved in general, but desires a specific love, the kind of love that sees every complicated and intimate detail of a person’s life and delights in it and embraces it.”
We are intimately loved by God. Baptism embraces us in God’s love and leads us to experience joy, often through specific acts of service. These simple actions overflow God’s love into our relationships with others, bringing healing and hope to a hurting world.
Once we have been baptized, divine love continually overflows into our lives, leads us to rest by the still waters, and guides us in faith toward making the world a little better or more whole each day.
Years ago, while sipping Cuban coffee with a dear friend, he said, “Waking up is a joy for me, one more day I didn’t deserve. In life, my mission is to make every human contact one that improves a person’s life for the better. This takes the form of compliments rather than criticism.”
As the days of January pass us by, let us experience joyful living by making our beds, adding value to the world, and serving God in simple yet profound ways with love.