Sunday, December 15, 2013

the unconventional gift of joy (at advent and throughout the year)

I pride myself in being a relatively easy to please person living a relatively simple life.  But deep down this year, more than some previous years, I struggle. I want to be like everyone else in this materialistic and consumer-driven culture. I think a bigger house or a better lens, some talent or some matching decor or even just a pair of jeans that don't gap in the back (do these exist??) would make me happy.  I worry that I am missing out. I think that I am not getting what I deserve. Then I start to wonder why I can't have what everybody else has.

I was doing pretty well with keeping Christmas in proper perspective until I crashed the van last week. It wasn't a really great time to do that. Then so easily I slipped into the old habits of, "Why me?" I hate that habit. I thought I'd broken myself of it, but I can't break myself of any bad habit. And it doesn't matter if you bring me everything on my wish list, it still won't be enough. Someone will always have something that I don't, and I will still feel empty. The cycle of wanting to fill myself with meaningless things will continue.

What I need is joy, and that doesn't come in a box. It comes in the Spirit. It is not an emotional high. It is not a prize to be won or a paycheck to be earned. Joy is a gift, but it is an unconventional one.  It is almost always birthed out of something painful or hard or exhausting.

Joy is knowing someone who was always kind and sincere to you is now in heaven, no longer in pain. Joy is hearing that your child with developmental delays and communication difficulties gave answers - the right answers nonetheless - in Sunday school this morning.  Joy is being able to give because every need has been provided, because your own kids have not lacked food or clothing or love. Joy is tears that cannot stop and hands that must be raised on the final verse of O Holy Night. Joy is resting in the fact that coordinating bedding and a room full of toys does not equal a happy childhood - or a happy adulthood - and the lack of those things does not mean an unhappy one.

Joy is a choice,some say, but I can't fake it till I make it. Joy is mysterious. Like an unexpected downpour, joy washes over me when I most need it.  On my own initiative, I can't be joyful. I have tried, and I have failed. But I need joy. Plain and simple, I need joy. And it is here for receiving. God with us.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:9-11

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