Joy in a Cup
This week I was able to spend time in a cabin in the middle of the woods in the Idaho panhandle. The quiet that was everywhere was breathtaking. The quiet of the frozen lake, the quiet of the snow piled window deep, the quiet of the river that flowed so slowly through the trees. There were no cars zooming by outside,
no harsh lights shining through the curtainless windows. No TV blaring. No news outlets distracting my thoughts. Nothing to take my mind into territory that was harsh and unhealthy. All of this brought me a tremendous amount of joy in the solace of the quiet. There was such an absence of distraction that I was able to, many times throughout the trip, focus my thoughts completely on, the joy I receive in spending time with my brother and sister-in-law and the joy I receive because I have Jesus Christ in my life.
If joy is foreign to you, if you are wondering what this might even feel like in a this crazy world, know that it is available to any thoughtful mind or feeling heart. In this world that we live in, where sometimes there is such an absence of hope and joy, you can find solace in the peace that comes from Jesus. When I think about all I have to do in a day, groceries, picking up kids, dropping them off. Going to the bank, making dinner, being prepared for the work I get paid for doing, writing, studying, praying, worshiping, I feel like I am spinning plates and at any time, one will drop and shatter which will cause everything I am doing to fall to pieces. This doesn't take into account being a wife, a friend, a mom, and being present in each of these roles. Every day is a balance of everything we have to do and besides the tasks, we have to put on our best face, the happy mask that we wear so that no one will know that we are struggling and everyone will believe that we have it all together. I wonder if any of us ever thought about doing stage or movie acting, because this is exactly what is happening each day. All of this compared to this past weekend made me really think about my life and what it is really about. What is the purpose of the work I do each day and how do I find the same joy I found in the quiet, in the craziness of this busy everyday life?
I have recently begun to really slow down and to look, I mean really look, at what happens every day. When I think back to when my son was little and I was working full time as a teacher, I can't remember very many details. I was just going through each day as stated above. Completing all tasks I was asked to do, but never really seeing any of it or enjoying any of it, or even really realize that time was passing by. It makes me sad to say this. I am sad because I can't remember cute Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating with my sweet boy. I can't remember little details of our trip to China. I can't remember when he changed from a boy to a man. I can't remember when he became someone who didn't need me. I don't believe I actually found joy in any of these situations because I was so busy "doing" each activity and not "being" part of them. I was never taught to rest in each circumstance and enjoy what was happening around me. I was never inspired to look for the joy that was happening in each situation. My boy is now 30 and I take time each day to have some sort of experience with him, that I take a mental note of. in order to "be" part of the event and to remember the joy in it. In each coffeehouse I go to, I take time to make a mental note of the taste of the coffee I ordered so that I can remember the joy it brought me. I look around at the walls, the pictures, the people, and I enjoy the time I am there. So, I know this is something I need to do with every other experience I have in a day.
My walk with Jesus has solidified this joy and my being able to "be" part of the joy, and "look" for the joy, and "experience" the joy rather than just going through life "doing" everything. Henry Ward Beecher once said, "The test of Christian character should be that a man is a joy-bearing agent to the world." But how can we be a joy-bearing agent to the world when we have so many things happening around us and to us? Theologian and Pastor, Timothy Keller said in a sermon once that as Christians, "we don’t take ourselves seriously, and we are full of hope for the world." Because of the Gospel, because of the good news of Jesus Christ, because He hung on a cross to save us, because of His great grace that is given to us freely, we should look at the world with more humor and joy. He says, "nothing is mundane or matter-of-fact about our lives." Man, I wish I would have had this realization years and years ago. To look at the world and life's situations on a daily basis and not to look for joy and humor is a travesty especially if you have been saved by grace. What else could drive the way we look at things if not for the grace of Jesus Christ.
During this same vacation, I took a long drive by myself to visit a college I attended almost 35 years ago. I was only there for one semester but that time is so vital to my life and what made me become the me I am today. I had such anxiety to visit a place I spent a mere 18 weeks at, living and studying. How could this place mean so much? I realized on the solitary drive over, that when I was there, I had no idea who I was, who I wanted to be, who I was supposed to be and Who was driving my life's plan. If I had handled things differently during this time my life would be so incredibly different today. But, I was not engaged in my life at this time. I was doing everything, I thought, but I was not experiencing, being part of, or looking for anything. I was just there; sad, lonely, unsure. What might it have looked like if I really experienced all that God wanted me to experience during that time? I don't need to know the answer to that rhetorical question, as I know exactly where I am now and know, really know, that this is exactly where God wants and needs me to be, but I do wish I had experienced that time differently.
In his book, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, Henri Nouwen says, "We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us." I believe that if we are to do this, and really experience every moment of life whether its a struggle, a fun time with family, a girls date for coffee, or a trip with your granddaughter to Montana, we can find joy in it all.
Take a good look at your life right now. Picture all that you do in a day, a week, a month. Have you stopped to experience it all? Have you committed memories to a place in your heart where God sits and asks you to trust Him in all things? Can you move forward from today and begin to "be" in your life, "experience" your life, find you in your life? I love C.S. Lewis quote, "joy is the serious business of heaven". Of course it is. Christ is Joy!! He wants joy for us. Isaiah 51:11 says, "Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee." We can have joy in every situation just by communing with Christ, knowing him, trusting him, looking for him in everything we do. Are you ready for joy in your life? All struggles will not flee immediately, but the way you see, interact, experience your life will change and the joy you are given will help you to see exactly what is happening and how God will bring you through it and into glory.
Now, grab your coffee, today mine is a latte, sit down with God, ask him to show you his joy in your life and begin to experience every step of life with a different outlook, the business of heaven; JOY!