holy smokes, it's been a while!
the huge gap in my posts is really throwing me off right now. i came to the computer with a game plan and a thought process, but the lull in my activity has made me question whether or not i should catch everyone up on the excitement and adventure of the life of joe for no reason..... nah...... stick to the plan this time.
i have recently begun to read a book by john eldredge entitled "walking with God." now, i am only part of the way through the book and cant say im fully prepared to vouch for everything he says, however, ive come across a section on joy that i will go to bat for. reading through this particular section has got my wheels turning. the book actually contains no chapters, so the heading for this section is "making room for joy." sweet. in a nutshell, he explains through various life experiences how God has shown him that it is very necessary for him to concede to joy in his life. not just any joy though. specifically, the joy of the Lord - the only true joy there is. he is a "to the grind" kind of worker and struggles very much with relaxing, taking a break. essentially, he fills his life with work to the extent that he forfeits the experience of greater things. after describing a nostalgic day with his son, he writes:
"I feel like i met a stranger on an airplane, and we clicked. we swapped some stories, had a few drinks, laughed together. Then i drove home to an empty house. its like that. i had an encounter with joy. it touched a longing. now i begin to realize i haven't even given ten minutes to joy, let alone pursued it as essential to my life."
heavy. i read that and knew immediately that john and i were cruisin the same choppy waters. choppy because there is no joy....of course. but i know exactly what he means by this. maybe you do too. i can think back on my life and remember times that were full of joy. these were pleasant times. i want to experience them again, permanently. or at least as often as humanly possible. i also have memories that are a bit more dark, melancholy, poopy. they lack joy. i dont want to experiences those things again. granted, life is a school of hard knocks - helmet required. but the hefty blows of life are not perpetual. they are temporal and relatively sparse. aside from those hardships that necessitate remorse, sadness, regret, mourning - joy can be had.
as true as that may be, i, like mr. eldredge, failed wonderfully in recognizing the importance of pursuing joy. i always viewed joy the same way many of us might view receiving an unexpected "A" on a term paper or finding $10 in your pocket. its awesome when its there, and it certainly makes everything better, but its not something i expected to hang around. and why not?
"It has to do with agreements i've made without even knowing it. by "agreements" i mean those subtle convictions we come to, assent to, give way to, or are raised to assume are true. it happens down deep in our souls where our real beliefs about life are formed. something or someone whispers to us, Life is never going to turn out the way you'd hoped, or Nobody's going to come through, or God has forsaken you. And something in us responds, That's true. we make an agreement with it, and a conviction is formed. it seems so reasonable. i think we come to more of our beliefs in this way than maybe any other. subtle agreements.
Anyhow, i began to realize that what i've done for most of my life is resign myself to this idea: I'm really not going to have any lasting joy. and from that resignation, i've gone on to try and find what i could have. women do this in marriage. they see that they are not going to have any real intimacy with their husbands, so they lose themselves in soaps or tabloids or romance novels. men find their work a sort of slow death, so they get a little something in the bar scene each night. have a few beers with the boys, watch the game. joy isn't even a consideration. settle for relief."
settle for relief. something i have done for the majority of my life. something God convicted me of over the summer as a counselor at summers best two weeks. i settled for less. i resigned to the idea that i couldn't be as happy or as joyous as the next guy so i didn't seek it out. i didn't try to experience or exude joy. i settled with a safe, unobtrusive even-keel. i didn't stand out, but i didn't drown either. i was comfortable. i was liked. i was safe. maybe you're like me. have you ever sought out joy before? like really seek it out. the same way we dive into a clearance rack or immerse ourselves in the titillating highlights of ESPN. but finding joy may take a little more effort. dang it. whatever happened to easy? i think easy came toted on the back of weak. they're buds. i guess im suggesting that we seek out joy. is it worth it? whats the point?
"But joy is the point. i know it is. God says that joy is our strength. "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (nehemiah 8:10). i think, My strength? i don't even think of it as my occasional boost. but yes, now that i give it some thought, i can see that when i have felt joy i have felt more alive than at any other time in my life....."
my heart leaps for joy. (psalm 28:7)
you have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. (psalm 4:7)
i have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (john 15:11)
until now you have not asked for anything in my name. ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (john 16:24)
I am coming to you now, but i say these things while i am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (john 17:13)
seeking the Lord for joy in my life has resulted in the following:
- confidence in myself and in the Lord's assessment of me
-enthusiasm for the little things in life
-genuine interaction/communication with people (even those individuals i dont know so well)
-optimism, positive attitude, encouragement
- an eternal perspective (because joy does not derive from the fleeting things of this world. its immaterial. it comes from the eternal God who helps me to remember that greater things have yet to come. my reward is in heaven. my gift is salvation through grace. these are the things joy is rooted in)
- a brand spanking new mercedes (just kidding! that would make me HAPPY though...till i scratched it or the inside stopped smelling new and started smelling like brawn and hard work.)
seek joy. seek God.
reporting live from the radisson,
joe for no reason