How do you measure a year?

It's fun to see how inspiration comes in the most simple ways when we just leave the house and pay attention to little things around us. Sometimes the clearest messages come in those things we see and hear as we go about our "normal" days. When we're living with the recognition that Divine Love runs the universe, are days ever really "normal"? I instead find them often to be full of unexpected wonder. 

Recently I joined the YMCA and have been checking out some of their fitness classes. One day last week I was struggling with angst over a situation that had left me wondering how to move forward in a constructive way. As I walked up to the door of the Y, I noticed a woman carrying a gym bag that said "ILOVE". I don't know if it was marketing for a particular brand or what (I might be way late on some trend here, as I sometimes am). But it was just the message I needed. I simply needed to be reminded to focus on loving and let the situation I was concerned about resolve naturally. Once inside the building, as I was gathering the needed equipment for a class, my eyes fell on a ball sitting next to the woman in front of me. On it was the word "patience". Ha! Again, just the gentle tip I needed (and again I have no idea what kind of ball that was). "Love and be patient," I thought. "Duh." And I thanked Love itself for the messages that were right in front of my nose.

Music is what really gets me to move, and I've noticed that fitness instructors will sometimes choose a song with a positive message for the final few minutes of stretching at the end of class. Recently at the end of a Zumba class the instructor played the song Seasons of Love from the musical Rent. I'd heard the song before but had not listened so closely. I realized she must have chosen this song especially in observance of the new year's arrival.

The lyrics mention "525, 600 minutes", which is the number of minutes in a year. It asks how do we measure a year in the life. "In daylights? In sunsets? In cups of coffee? In inches? In miles? In laughter? In strife?...In truth that she learned? Or in times that he cried?" It got me thinking. How do I measure my years? My days? They seem to roll by one after another sometimes, and I find myself asking if I have many accomplishments to show or if I've really made sufficient progress. 

Mary Baker Eddy sends a clear message in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures about the problem of traditional approaches to measuring our lives. "The measurement of life by solar years robs youth and gives ugliness to age... Chronological data are no part of the vast forever" (p. 246). 

It makes sense that as we let go of the limitations imposed upon us by the world's definitions of "a productive day" or "a successful year" or even the concept of life expectancy being a certain number of years, we discover deeper satisfaction and meaning that is not confined by time and circumstances. But how can we actually measure our days and years to know if we are getting somewhere? As much as it may sound like a cheesy, oversimplified Broadway answer, I think the song's response to the question it asks is a good one: "Measure your life in love." 

Love is by definition something that can't exactly be quantified because it is not a material object. You can't really say, "Today I got 30 love" unless you're playing tennis. But at the end of the day when we take stock before we lie down to sleep, or at the end of the year as we ponder our progress, can we not take a moment to ask ourselves if we have found specific ways to tangibly express love more fully? Every day can we not find numerous "measurable" ways to be a little more kind to a family member instead of being caught up in our own world, ways to generously surprise a friend needing support during a tough time, ways of being more patient with fellow church members, or ways to graciously make the day more pleasant for a stranger on the street or in the store? What about ways to make a difference in a suffering world by taking time to pray about specific needs or to volunteer in a capacity that uses our talents? 

I like the idea of more consciously looking for those opportunities and measuring my life in this way. It's something we can do at any moment, regardless of how many years we have been on the earth or how productive we think our days have been. And how helpful that Love gives us messages throughout the day, in the form of gym bags or songs or whatever, to remind us to up the love measurement a little more. Here is the song Seasons of Love if you would like to hear it: