I stood outside the little noodle dive and waited. And waited. And waited. “It’s a little salty,” said one of the customers at a pop-up table by the glass door hinged open. Nick was at home with our tot after a long morning in language classes. The window for our lunch together was getting smaller and smaller as I approached my long afternoon of language classes and tutoring. Our simple lunch of salty noodles finally came through the door and I pedaled home as quickly as I could thinking:
We can do better than this.
I came home from class and tutoring, and it was time to serve up another meal. Nick and I exchanged the “what’s for dinner?” look and shrug. We headed out to a neighborhood restaurant. The tot recognized the ritual and exclaimed, “Rice!”
Yes, give us this day our daily rice.
Discontent lodged firmly within and between us about our food choices and time constraints, we began to reach for something better. That initiated an upward climb that emerged into a land named thrive.
The gate was our eating habits five years ago, but it didn’t have to be that way. There are other gates, be they time management, emotional health, spiritual practice, or relational harmony. Five essentials hinge them all.
Alignment. Make choices, large and small, that stem from what you believe. It’s not necessary to analyze every choice or reign in every impulse because the default is to choose what jives with the way you want to live. Alignment has occurred when you can do that with ease. Thriving begets thriving. If you reach alignment in one area, strands of another get tugged into place. We are integrated people.
Interconnectedness. Patty wrote a striking post about this concept in the early days of VA. The short of it is: I thrive when those around me thrive. It’s contagious. Therefore, I do not envy you when things go well, as though what you’ve obtained is no longer available to me. Nope! I dance a jig because I observe what I admire. That leads to distilling it to the core virtue, deriving principles for life, practicing and modifying to my unique person. Have you seen the comments in the posts this week? Ideas and advice and experiences and struggle and JOY. Thanks for doing the hard work to flourish right where you are.
Circumstances. These are shifting sands, which leave us working not so much with the materials of right and wrong, but rather of cause and effect. This is what Paul is getting at when he says that all things are permissible, but not all are profitable. We are free to adjust our lifestyles and even change our minds according to our experiences and limitations. What is thriving in one season may be dead branches in another. Saw ‘em off, burn into ashes, and spread on the roots to nourish new growth. It’s easier, of course, when values transfer beautifully, or require minimal adaptation. Give thanks for those.
Paradox (two of them). First, it’s already there, in you: everything you need for life, flourishing and abundant, and everything you need for godliness, right living. It’s not yet because of your sin, the sin done to you by others, and the sin of the systems of which you are a part. Second, thriving is both active and passive. We choose and we act. We stay and we wait. This action and passion (to be acted upon) are not juxtaposed but in tandem.
Grace. It’s not about having enough control, being smart enough, or procuring the right kind of help. (This is not to minimize the fruit of the Spirit, nurturing intelligence, or seeking/receiving intervention.) It’s when the truer voices silence the liars. It’s okay, good even, and God is at work. Nothing more hopeful or comforting can be said in the pursuit of a thriving existence.
We can sum it all up this way. Being more fully human, like Jesus. Being more authentically the unique person God made. Thriving is not having all the little duckies lined up and pigeons holed. There are gifts in imperfection, after all.
I’m reaching again for wider opener spaces. I am looking for a gate, watching for those around me who are thriving, and confident that, “God will transform my dead ground into Eden, my moonscape into the garden of God, a place filled with exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs.” May it be so for us all.
What’s been your gateway to thrive? What essential have you discovered?
This is what we call The Grove. It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt. So join us in the comments. Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt. Click here for details and instructions.
 1 Corinthians 10:23
 Isaiah 51:3 (MSG)