Monday, December 14, 2015

Delighting in God's Joy

At times I’m concerned people don’t take me seriously because I’m quick to punch a line or lighten a mood. But my greater concern is that too many people take themselves too seriously. Self-righteousness is an enemy to joy. Self-centeredness is an enemy to joy. My greatest self-assessment will only-always-ever be a parody of God’s glory.

My joy, however, magnifies His praise.

I’ve talked with friends who deem joy a “personality type.” Some folks are melancholy; others are bubbly. (I must be Seltzer water.) These differences are not the result of choice and discipline, so goes the logic: we have our fathers to blame.

I don’t buy the argument. For once upon a time I was a moody teenager, guilt-ridden young man, and duty-driven husband. I was more inclined to do dishes than give hugs. My thinking cap held my emotions and self-expression in check. Myers-Briggs told me I should be judging people. The DISC test told me to dominate.

Domination, I learned, does not inspire happy friendship. Condemnation rarely provokes a laugh. So I gave my personality a writ of divorce and began to date delight.

To be fair, my kind and compassionate Heavenly Father set me up. He initiated a courtship with Joy by pulling a few strings. He shattered some of my dreams. He loosened some of my chains. He refined me through the love of a wife and blessing of children. He directed me to authors whose wit and wisdom captured my imagination (e.g., G.K. Chesteron, C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson). He gave me an opportunity to lead in a church on the fringe of relevance in a land called Honali where I’ve recently preached with my fly down.

And He has yet to release me from being a Browns fan (the ultimate comedy of errors).

The force of these elements over the course of time has begun to carve out my ego like a gorge. The sound of laughter echoes in my mind; the pious voice of self-importance diminishes. I still have my bad days (so I keep blogging), but more and more I bask in the fullness of Joy bequeathed by Jesus.
(How can you not experience Joy when using words like bask and bequeath? The Word became flesh binds us together through the gift of words!)

I know there is a dark side – more real than Lucas Films – that haunts the soul. Sin and suffering plague us all. Some of our pains are self-inflicted. Some of our hurts result from the fallen condition of the world. Sin and sorrow linger.

And yet, light broke through the darkness in dramatic fashion (Luke 1:79; 2:9, 22; John 1:4).
God knit a baby named John in the womb of old and barren Elizabeth.
God conceived Jesus in the womb of a virgin named Mary.
God spread the “good news of great joy” through a game of Telephone between glorious angels and gritty shepherds.
Dying Simeon danced for joy at the sight of the Christ Child.
Widowed Ana wept for joy at His appearing.
The whole gospel story resounds with the angelic proclamation: Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)

Joy does not focus on the darkness, my depression or disposition. Joy fixates on the light, watching for God to break through the impossible, or simply to break the dawn. For the same God who sent the Bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), rejoices daily in raising the sun. “Do it again,” God says, according to G.K. Chesterton. Every day is an encore of His eternal joy.

“It may be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life… Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony… It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite for infancy. But we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” (Orthodoxy, 52) 

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