Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seeking Joy

(A post in which pictures and words do not match. Pictures from the zoo, words from somewhere else.)

(Pics of Jack and me taken by Michael. I am impressed at his quick thinking behind the lens, zooming in to capture Jack's spontaneous affection.)

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The fog rising above the ocean glowed with soft hues of orange and pink as it reflected the easterly sky and the rising of the sun. I propped myself up onto my elbows and gazed out at the water in the distant. It was beauty I could not feel. The turmoil in my heart which was present the night and days before returned, and I was reminded that joy does not come as a result of beautiful surroundings.

This was Sunday morning. As usual, yet with unusual desperation, I prayed for the strength that comes only from the Lord. I prayed that He would fill me with his Spirit, that I would be consumed with him, that he would empower me and breathe life into my struggling and fragile heart. As fervent and desperate cries, my prayers went up as my only hope.

My Sunday morning routine began, but I had little desire to even go to church. I wanted to avoid having to spin positive answers to each question of, "How are you?" and, "Are you all settled in yet?" Neither did I want to be entirely truthful.

Rather robotically, I mixed the ingredients to a pumpkin cake I was to bring to gathering later in the day. My thoughts spun around in a confusing mess, and shamefully I could not even sum up to myself all that was causing me grief. I have always desired not to be mastered by my feelings, and I believe that feelings are absolutely not outside of God's sanctifying power, yet it has always seemed that I feel deeper and more intricately than I can handle.

Alone in the bathroom sometime later, I began to think about happiness versus joy. True joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Happiness, at least to me, seems to be dictated by circumstances, rest, hormones, good food, all manner of subjective emotions, and the like. Happiness is fleeting, and elusive at times. Joy, on the other hand, should be constant and increasing with Christian maturity. Joy doesn't pretend that life is easy.

I pray for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. I pray for self-control, I pray for love, patience, kindness... But do I pray for joy? Do I strive to increase in joy, with the help of the Lord? Or do I just assume I should simply have fullness of joy, then feel guilty because I lack it?

I can picture Jesus as being happy on some occasions when he reclined with his friends, but I don't think his disposition was of bubbly happiness. In fact, Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He felt deeply, experienced sadness and grief, and yet he had perfect joy.

Church. I sat down feeling glad to be there. I've attended churches where people come and go without being built up; they leave feeling just as lonely or discouraged, if not more so. That has not been the case for me at our precious congregation. We began to sing hymns and I felt truly glad to be there.

But then, suddenly and without warning, the tears began to well up in my eyes. I struggled to contain them, and then quickly lost the battle.

I am the pastor's wife, and by default I usually sit up front. I don't prefer attention in any situation, and I carefully avoid it. And though sitting there with tears spilling over I knew I was not the object of people's attention, I still felt like some kind of spectacle. I bowed my head and hoped my loose hair would shield my face from notice.

I think of real problems in the world, and of mountainous personal problem in the lives of others. I feel like a wimp in the face of my comparatively little issues, and despite my abundant blessings. But I know God cares about my heart because he died for me and personally called me to be his own. He knows me intimately, and cares about my tears streaming down during church and silently at night.

And He gathers them up in his bottle.

Life is harder than I would have hoped. I am not yet the kind of person I would like to be, but by God's grace I am becoming. Slowly and awkwardly. Becoming.



  1. Ok, first of all that last photo of the hibiscus is BEAUTIFUL and reminds me of Gary's collection of them, in the variegated apricot tones.

    NOW, to the point. In my own life, it is in church that the tears really flow. What a treasure we have in the Lord God Almighty who loves us so greatly, and we know that, and are humbled by it, and are made most aware when in the place of Worship. In His presence is where we are the most vulnerable, and most protected at the same time. Tears of various "feelings" flow when we feel His touch and realize we are known by God like no one else. With exaggerated tone Gary used to say "The word, HAPPY sounds shallow and frivolous, but the word JOY sounds better, deeper, and more satisfying." May we all seek greater JOY and rest knowing that it IS increasing in us over our lifetime.
    Love you and miss you.

  2. Amen to what Laurie said!! My favorite pics were of the lion and the hippo! Lovely shots!

  3. My reading of this post was so appropriately timed for me. Thank you (both to you and to the Lord for His prompting through you)!

  4. Real people like you are what church community is all about! Praise the Lord for that reminder! Thank you for sharing so openly and being such a consistent encouragement! Praying for you!x

  5. Beautifully shared! Thank you for your honesty. Sometimes I feel as though I am the only pastor's wife with these struggles. :)


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