When was the last time you went bowling? A couple of weeks ago I was at a Bachelor Party for a friend, and we ended up at a bowling alley (before you judge – we’re all a bit older, and quite frankly, I’ll take bowling over paintball any day of the week). A bunch of guys, there to have fun, but still experiencing an internal wrestling between being there to celebrate a friend, but also not wanting to be the person taking bottom spot on the leader board. As the game progressed, I found myself in a comfortable 3rd place out of 7 (not too shabby). Now, I am not naturally a competitive person, in fact, I want everyone to win if I can help it (and that includes you!). At the same time, I don’t want to be the one to lose if I can help it. As the game progressed, I started caring more about the gutter balls and lack of strikes and started having a “get your head in the game” moment. And even when I did get a strike, I chastised myself for the fact that it was the only one I got. The joy of a perfect strike was stolen from me because I was so focussed on where I wanted to get to – not last – and what I needed to do to get there – bowl more strikes.
How many of us find ourselves having victories, however small, but they get swallowed up by our goals or by our fears that we will never see victory again?
Two lanes down, there was a group of ladies having the time of their lives. At one stage, one of them got a strike, and I kid you not, that whole bowling alley could hear their celebration. Not only did the lady who bowled the strike take all the joy there was to be had in the moment, but her friends celebrated alongside her. You would swear she had just won the lottery. And here I was three lanes down going: “Yes, I got a strike, but I didn’t get two….”
I’m here to definitively tell you:
- You will lose nothing by celebrating EVERY victory, however small. Somewhere along the line, I think we became convinced that we are “wasting time” if we stop to celebrate the milestones and the victories along the way. That’s a lie. Each celebrated victory becomes a memory, spurring you on to future victories. Without the joy, without the celebration, all we are striving for is more striving. So celebrate often, and do it unapologetically because when you do, you’re giving someone else permission to do the same.
- There will be future victories… This one is mine. I own this one, because I’ve often found myself thinking: “Yes, this breakthrough, this victory, is great. But who knows if or when we will see success again?” Who can relate? No matter how faithful God has been in my life, I tend to hold onto the disappointments, and the fallout of seasons of waiting, far longer than I do the victories I’ve seen. But you know what, when I look back, there were SO MANY victories. We have short memories, friends. We forget that life is filled with an infinite number of joyous moments, both big and small, but when I choose to focus on what did not work out or what might not work out, then all of the life and joy is sucked out of today. We choose where to place our focus. Where will you place yours? Take the time to draw your journal closer and start to jot down as many moments where you’ve experienced God’s goodness in your past. Keep the list, keep it growing, keep checking in on it and allow it to serve as a reminder that joy can be found if you only look for it.
- Lastly, it takes many SMALL victories to reach BIG goals, so don’t resent the small victories. They are a milestone on the path to greater things. I know earlier when I was encouraging you not to resent the small victories, some of you probably thought: “What a hippie. If you celebrate all the time, when does anything ever get done?” And I can understand that for some, you find joy, not along the way, but once you reach the goal. But research has shown us that something powerful happens motivationally when we break our goal up into smaller bite-sized chunks. In fact, in his book “Finish”, Jon Acuff encourages us to halve our goals, reach them and then form a new one, rather than coming up with grandiose goals that we will never be able to attain. So I want to encourage you. Whatever your goal, give it milestones. Give it smaller signposts along the way, each pointing you towards victory, but each worthy of being celebrated. As you do, you are building the road to your destination brick-by brick as you go, and those bricks are not only bricks of determination and sweat but also of joy, grace and victory.
Take the time this week to celebrate the victories behind you, to plan some milestones for the road ahead (so that the celebrations won’t be too few and far between), but above all else, find joy in the day-to-day little things that God sends your way. I’ll try if you will…