Celebrate Positive Moments

John 2: 1-11

Wednesday was not a good day.  That was the day my husband got the news that one of his friend is dying of cancer.  It was a gloomy evening in our household.

And then Thursday came around.  I arrived at church that morning, and was greeted with this wonderful aroma of corned beef cooking in preparation for Open Heart Kitchen’s St. Patrick’s dinner.  The smell was mouth-watering, and I noticed that my attitude improved a little.

Thursday afternoon I went out to my car and the weather had taken a turn for the better.  The sky was blue and the temperature was in the 50s, and my mood lifted somewhat.  

I drove to the rehab facility where Ruth is staying and found her killing it in therapy.  Whatever the physical therapist asked her to do she did with no trouble whatsoever.  

In between therapy appointments we had a chance to talk and to pray together.  Ruth rested her forehead on mine so that she could hear me as we prayed the Lord’s Prayer.  In that moment I felt it, that moment the positive psychologists talk about, a micro-moment of love, a feeling of being close to another person and in tune with them.  And my soul felt glad.

Scientists estimate that the average person needs three positive experiences to make up for every one negative thing that happens to them (Love 2.0, 154).  The 3 to 1 ratio worked for me this week.

Scientists have also estimated how many positive and negative experiences people have during a typical day.  The average is three positive experiences to one negative experience; exactly what we usually need to maintain a sense of well-being (153).  

So if on an average day the typical person has the right amount of positive moments in proportion to negative ones, why don’t we all walk around feeling better about life in general?  One of the reasons is that, unfortunately, the average person fixates on the one negative so much that the three positives are ignored.

One negative thing happened at a wedding in Cana.  They ran out of wine.  Ever been to a party that ran out of refreshments?  It can put a damper on the festive atmosphere.  

Fortunately, three positive things happened that rescued the wedding celebration.  First, Mary did not focus on the problem; she pointed to the solution.  She pointed people to Jesus and told them to follow his instructions.

Second, Jesus listened to his mother despite his own reluctance, and he told the servants what to do.  The third positive thing happened after the servants carried out Jesus’ weird instructions and water was miraculously changed into wine.  The wedding organizers didn’t know it, but they already had everything they needed, Wine, Jars, Jesus,  just enough to save the celebration.

The MC praised the bridegroom for the high quality vintage being served.  He celebrated the bridegroom’s good fortune.  

This, sadly, is not always the reaction we get when something positive happens to us.  Some people distance themselves from other people’s happiness, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson notes in her book Love 2.0.  

Instead of being glad for us they are resentful, a “why you not me?” attitude.  Or our blessings make them feel inferior, a “that will never be me!” mood.  Or our excitement will go unnoticed by them, a “the only thing that matters is what’s happening to me” disconnect from the other souls around them (154, 155).

These reactions can make us reluctant to share our good news with others, another reason why people don’t notice the positive happenings surrounding them.  This hesitation to share good news is regrettable because celebrating with others is the most effective way of forging social bonds.

Your loved one comes home and shares news of some accomplishment.  How do you react?  “Do you lean in toward them?  Or do you shy away?  Do you meet them in kind, expressing your own genuine positive emotions in turn?  Or do you shrug them off as irrelevant or point out the potential downsides?“ (75)

“Researchers who have carefully coded couples’ responsiveness to each other in situations like these find that those who capitalize on each other’s good fortunes, by responding to their partner’s good news with their own enthusiasm and outward encouragement, have higher-quality relationships.  They enjoy more intimacy, commitment, and passion with each other, and find their relationship to be more satisfying overall.” (75)

We can share a loved one’s positive experience thereby strengthening our relationship, and when we do that their positive can become one of the three positive experiences that we need to balance out a negative that happened to us that day.  This shared micro-moment of love can only happen, however, if we notice our loved one’s joy and celebrate with them.

Try this experiment at home this week.  Sit someplace where you won’t be disturb.  Take a few deep breaths to help you relax.  Then think about someone else’s success or blessing.  It could be a raise or good health, any good thing, big or small.  Then pray, “May God continue to bless you.”  Then think of someone else and pray for them, too.  You don’t have to know these people every well.  It might be someone you heard about on the news (156, 157).

Practices such as these can help people become more aware of and open to other people’s good news, which in turn helps them to lovingly celebrate with others, which then strengthens their social connections with others.

We need to be socially integrated with others.  Life is too difficult to cope with on our own.  Negativity surrounds us every day.  On the other hand, chances are very good that more positive things are happening around us than negative.  

People are dying of cancer.  And in the midst of that grief we experience a micro-moment of pleasure, beauty, or grace.  The positives doesn’t erase the negative.  For me the positives help me hold on to hope in the face of the negative.

The items in front of the altar, these are negatives that people fixate on instead of turning their attention to God.  [laundry basket overflowing with clothes, tub full of dishes, pay money, mail, a laptop]

Our lives get cluttered.  Laundry, dishes, bills, on and on.  We can feel burdened, life becomes a chore, and negativity sets in.

But there’s another realm represented by what’s on the altar.  This is a space of peace and beauty and celebration.  Because of Christ, we can have access to this space at any time through faith.  [golden altar cloth, candles, gold cross]

With each passing Sunday of Lent, as we get closer to Easter, the items around the altar have been disappearing.  Have you noticed?  Were you aware of the positive change for the better?  Or are you only paying attention to the negative?

Christians should be like Mary in the Gospel lesson this morning, pointing someone fixated on a negative to Christ, who will in turn point them to the three things that they need for a sense of well-being, three things that they already possess.

Christians should be like the wedding servants, following Christ no matter how outlandish his instructions may seem.

Christians should be like the MC, celebrating another person’s blessing, especially when that blessing is a miracle.  Don’t distance yourself from the evidence that God is at work in another person’s life.  Celebrate it, be glad for them.  Then the miracle becomes a part of your experience, too.

Christians should behave like Mary and the servants and the MC, we know that.  And we know that we don’t always behave like we should.  Talk to Christ about it.  When you can’t find the good in life.  When you find it difficult to be happy for other people.  Tell Christ.  You’ve run out of wine.  You are tapped out.  Partied out.  Ask for his help.  Your Savior will be there for you.  Believe in Him.