One of the things my wife and I most like to do is host people in our home.
Whether it is for drinks and appetizers before an event, a dinner with friends, or an all-out party, we love entertaining.
Cooking, cleaning, adorning the table, the presentation of the meal, the stories and laughter shared around a table then fire — it’s all a part of the ritual of hospitality, of welcome, of friendship.
One word describes it best: Celebration.
Believe it or not, celebration is one of the ancient practices of faith formation known as the spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines are habits, activities, and experiences that are designed to develop, grow, and strengthen one’s identity, faith, and relationship with self and others.
They are the practices — the things we do — that build and tone the muscles of our character, and to enrich and expand the territory of our inner world.
Throughout the world’s vast and varied religious traditions, both near and far, there is, in every one, a collection of practices that adherents employ to enrich their encounter with God, with self, and with one another.
Christianity is no exception.
In fact, there are historically 12 ancient practices that comprise the “spiritual disciplines,” although surely anything one does to grow deeper, broader, and more mature in the living out of one’s faith identity could be considered one.
That celebration is counted as one has always struck me as genius.
I get the big, well-known ones: worship, study, prayer, meditation, fasting, etc.
I even understand how simplicity and contemplation are on the list.
But the one that gets me is celebration.
Throughout the Bible, people are called to celebration.
It is an instinctive mode human beings have.
Watch any sport, play any game, win or even mildly succeed at anything, and the human impulse is to celebrate: to smile, throw your hands up, embrace someone, and tell the story to others.
Celebration is in our bones.
And it is not just for the good times, the easy times, the all-is-well times.
Celebration is for the hard times, too.
And we are in some hard times.
But look at us…
Birthday parades. Game Nights via House Party and Zoom. Yard signs for seniors and drive-thru graduation ceremonies.
The list goes on.
Somewhere in us, even amidst a pandemic, with its enthralling financial and physical impact on hundreds of millions, we are still a celebratory people.
Don’t get me wrong: As much as we are a people who celebrate, we are also a people who grieve. Both practices — celebration and mourning — are innate to us, and both deserve and require their due attention.
But the ancient abbas and the ammas, the fathers and mothers, of our faith, saw fit to include celebration in that list of everyday activities that we do in order to grow closer to God and to one another.
Even in our mourning, we celebrate. The stories told at the funeral, the meal after; it’s all celebration.
So yes, amid dark, difficult, and even death-dealing days, we celebrate.
Celebrate what exactly?
That we are not alone; that we have one another; that hope springs eternal every once-in-a-while; that God is busy making all things new, or so we believe.
So raise your glass, fire the confetti cannon, crank up the music and sing, honk as you drive by, light a candle, illumine your home in green, post pictures, wear the funny hats, tell jokes, and laugh, and, when the time is right, invite people who mean something to you to your front porch or backyard, and though six feet apart, tell the stories, and revel in the goodness of life, despite the evidence, be at peace, and remember: Life itself is grace, as the preacher preached, and all the death that ever was, when set next to life, could scarcely fill a cup.
And life is what we celebrate. All of it. Right up until the end.
And then some.
Dr. Jonathan Eric Carroll, KLPC, NCPC, NCCE, is a state-licensed mental health professional, is an ACPE Psychotherapist, and is the Founder of The Clinic @ The Montgomery in downtown Owensboro. Dr. Carroll serves as the Grief Therapist for six funeral homes in the region. He also co-created and cohosts “You’ll Die Trying,” a podcast available everywhere. Visit www.themontgomeryclinic.com.