So the other day I was at the garden centre 🙂 looking for new residents for two pots. Granted, the official planting season is somewhat over (somewhat), and so the selection was far from the vast, robust and bright one that had been on display earlier. I scoured the aisle for potential, and spotted a pair of Gerbera on sale. One, clearly watered, shimmery and refreshed, the other exhausted, haggard and gasping for hydration. Should I take them both, or just the healthier one? Oh the decision!
According to quora.com, “multiple sources on the Internet (indicate) the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day.” That’s a lot of decision-making! And just as I was faced with a choice of deciding between the healthier and less so of the Gerbera, so am I with every decision I choose to make. Do I deliberately make one that exhausts or the one that hydrates?
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1: 2-4, New Living Translation)
Do you see it friend? Opportunity! In every circumstance, there is opportunity … for great … joy. Hmmm… An opportunity, a choice to be seized or not. When troubles of any kind come my way, I can choose very deliberately to be rooted in joy in every circumstance. The choice is up to me.
Okay, so bear with me as I slip into my wild imagination and consider snatching the choice of rooting my decisions in joy. What would happen I wonder…
Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path. The path went through the vineyards. There were walls on both sides.
(Numbers 22: 24, New International Reader’s Version)
By mindfully pushing myself away from my go-to mindset into the resolve to choose joy, I literally steer onto a different fork in the road. Rather than straining on my well-worn, parched and wide trail of wallowing, questioning, doubting, fearing, grumbling, whining and complaining, I switch gears and venture onto a slightly narrower but captivatingly different and excitingly unusual path. The trail is peaceful and protected; there is calm and easy assurance here, and I am carried along the pathway, able to stretch out my arms to feel the mist of its refreshing hydration. Is that excitement bubbling? Almost like an unmistakable sense of partnering in something wonderful and glorious – and it seems to give mysterious expression in sustaining me to endure the ache and brave the pain of the troubles. I can straighten up and the eyes of my heart catch glimpses, hints that reassure all is woven into “what is good, what is holy, what is right in God’s sight”.
Wild imagination indeed! Hang in with me here as I venture a little further down the trail.
This path seems to open to a vast and glorious meadow, a “Land of Joy” if you will, a place where I relax physically, psychologically and find myself in spiritually healthier place. God still guides me through inevitable testings, proofing and purifying, but this time I seem to see them from a different perspective. Joy boosts and lifts me higher, and from this aerial overview, difficulties are transformed into glistening opportunities, and joys seem multiplied. Of course, far in the background are the siren calls of resentment, anger and frustration that vie for my attention, but here, choosing joy, I have indescribable peace. Here it’s almost as if joy gives me new eyes, shifting the attention away from me and my efforts, and handing everything over to One who gladly assumes responsibility for our care, the One who gladly includes us in His opus. My ungodly character traits are disclosed and recognized, as is mutual agreement in their relinquishing. In return, love for the Gardener, the very first lover of my soul, takes on extra-new measure, texture, dimension, and deepness. In joy, it is easier to cooperate with Him, and to endure to see His desire for me to grow in me.
“Ofercryinoutloud! Come back to reality!” comes the smack-down. “Sounds like nothing more than an escape, a place of whimsy!” But honestly there’s this part of me that insists, and persists in hope, it’s very real. That our reality is not The Reality. That this place is not one of ‘faking it until you make it’, not grinding teeth and setting jaw in ‘grinning it and bearing it’. Within joy, in a mystery of mysteries mixed in with steadfast promises comes a comfortable tranquility of heart and peacefulness in soul. I’m okay with God knowing everything, and me not; not even needing to know or control. Blessed with flashes, fleeting glimpses of The Reality. I need only choose joy at any given moment.
Can I choose joy? Can we? Could it be possible? Even in this crazy mixed up and aching world?
It makes me think of Pollyanna, the main character and title of the book by Eleanor H. Porter. Pollyanna would play the “glad game” to find something positive in every situation, and was often misunderstood and ridiculed as “unrealistic”, “fake”, “disconnected from reality”, and as having “a blind eye to circumstance”. Could it be she decided to see and live in the joy, living in gladness, believing in the best concealed deep within of each person? Joy rooted in trust in Good? Well, judging from how the story unfolds, that simple joy transformed in wonderful and exciting ways.
I contend that joy is not blind to circumstance – choosing it changes our posture within the circumstance. It enables us to acknowledge the power is our Creator’s, and to be comfortable with the knowing that there is much more going on than the seen, and that in fact what we can see might actually be deceiving. It hints at the part we can play in the Greater Part, the real Reality. Joy is the Master key that offers to open the door to peace and freedom in the midst of conflict both within and beyond ourselves.
But it is a difficult challenge.
Today’s dynamic is much the same as it was in Pollyanna’s time – choosing joy is rarely the go-to inclination, the norm in this world we live in! In fact, if we dare to do the same today and to persist, chances are we’ll be just as bitingly scorned and bestowed the dictionary’s contemptuous definition of Pollyanna – “an excessively or blindly optimistic person.” But if we pay attention to the message and outcome of her story, we might agree that Pollyanna was onto something very powerful! She took hold of the key, flipped the switch and changed tracks. She persisted and transformed an entire community, freeing and soaking the parched hearts first of her aunt and then the whole Town! Each of us has the flicker of joy that waits to be fanned within to do the very same! Each of us can literally rise above “no-good-terrible-day”s and recalibrate our best and worst and everything-inbetween relationships, our homes, our streets, and our communities! All it takes is daring to choose and persist in joy!
Jesus, it is so hard to choose joy in every single circumstance. Sometimes situations can be just so darned tough and overwhelming. Sometimes I know I need to, but I honestly just don’t want to. Sometimes the world and its worst to douse any vestige of my joy and peace gets to me. Grant me your patience and wisdom Jesus! In the midst of trying times, please draw my eyes, even just briefly, to the hope of choosing joy. Help me to genuinely and determinedly answer its whisper – and I mean genuinely! No faking it Jesus. The real thing. Soften me so it is genuine! Help me to recognize and take my hold of the peace, and to sit in it, to wade in it, even if just for a minute. Help me to risk living it inwardly and outwardly, even if just once. But help that one time to spread into many times, until it becomes a part of my character, part of a settled posture of outrageous-to-the-world peacefulness, easiness, gentleness, compassion, calmness, goodness, mercifulness and tenderness. Nothing is too great for you Jesus! Help me to live in joy in you so that you can be seen in me.
Honor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
(1 Chronicles 16:27, Revised Standard Version)
Behold, this is the joy of his way; and out of the earth others will spring.
(Job 8: 19, Revised Standard Version)
I will be glad and full of joy because of you! Most High God, I will sing the praises of your name!
(Psalm 9:2, New International Reader’s Version)
Soil and Seed