Big J Joy

9 09 2010

I have a chalkboard painted on a wall in my office and I have written in large letters Proverbs 31, the one that I blogged about the other day: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (v.25). Right now I am at the kind of laugh you laugh when it is the first week of school and everyone needs something from you all at once, incessantly; the laugh which sounds like the cheese has slipped slightly off the cracker. I am working on it; laughter that comes from that deep place, laughter that gives you beautiful lines around your eyes after time, and spills out from a place of contentment with the moment, true Joy, this is what I am after.

There is another kind of joy; a fake, Christiany, small “j” kind of joy. This is the joy that plants a smile on one’s face no matter what and says “I am fine” no matter what and, worse, tacks on Christiany phrases and excuses no matter what. This joy pretends that life isn’t hard, or that some things don’t hurt, or that you might have more questions than answers. Fake joy is hoarfrost that quickly melts.

Fake joy doesn’t come from “a place” or have a feeling to it; but true Joy bubbles up from somewhere. I was reading Psalm 126 in the Bible and the first line already had me: “When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.” When you have bumped into something you couldn’t have dreamed up, that is just too good to be true, but IS true; when the thing you feel in the proverbial “pit of your stomach” so often (dread, fear, worry, uncertainty) is drowned with…what? Gratitude predominantly, and along with that relief, peace, confidence; this is the chemistry of Joy, I think.

In my own life,

  • when the impossible suddenly is possible because of the hand of God,
  • when something I don’t deserve is gracefully and unexpectedly given by Him,
  • when something bad is averted because of His protection,
  • when I haven’t been looking but suddenly notice the artistry of the Creator in something or someone,
  • when I share in a great idea that the Holy Spirit has inspired;

On the other side of any of those things, something wells up in me that I can not manufacture. Psalm 126 says it this way: “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”

The very cool byproduct of this kind of big-J Joy is that it is noticeable: “Then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.'” A person can talk about how good God is, but nothing witnesses like Big J Joy: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

The beautiful thing about Big J Joy is that it is not dependent on life being good; just on God being good.  Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow in tears, will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” I was doing a little reading on this part of the Psalm and one commentator said,

“There is something very touching about the courage and faith and self-sacrifice of the small farmer who, when sowing time comes, must take of his little store of seed and give it up, sacrificing it beyond recall when he places it in its bed of earth. The loss may mean less food for many days; but to hold it back would mean permanent loss, for if it is saved to be eaten there will be no harvest, and no seed for further sowings. Such experiences of the conflict of present need and future good would be known to almost every generation of Israelites with their recurring periods of drought and bad harvests. On occasions the seed was sown with tears in the acuteness of a felt hunger.”

It is the strangest thing, as one is waiting for a hard time to end and for Joy to show up once more, Joy comes early, unannounced before it is anywhere near “over.”  Who can explain that? I can’t but I can speak to this from experience; it’s true. The only way I know how to describe it is that Joy stands in my peripheral vision while I am focused on trying to hold it together and not sin against God or man, there is a sense of rightness in sowing that seed, there is a lightness in choosing God’s way over man’s, and Joy finds its way into my marrow.

Hm. I like the image of Joy being in my marrow:

“And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation.  All my bones will say, “LORD, who is like You…?” (Psalm 35:9-10)

— Teresa Joy Klassen

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2 responses

9 09 2010
altonwoods

Very insightful! this stood out to me…

“The only way I know how to describe it is that Joy stands in my peripheral vision”

Yes, it does!

Psalm 71:21 (King James Version)

21Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.

Tidings of comfort and joy?

9 09 2010
karleigh

teresa,
i needed to hear these words today. thanks.
Karleigh

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