This is a bit of a controversial post today. Probably filled with tangents, so bear with me. I actually feel a bit uncomfortable posting this because I don’t know where it will sit and I haven’t thought it all through. Those are usually the best times for me to write and type-it-out because it expresses the rawness of my mind. It’s not tied up in a bow, and I probably won’t even spell check. You’ve been warned. Usually I share it in writing, to process all that’s in my head. I speak more clearly in writing than in spoken word. So you’re welcome for getting a front row seat to my mind’s jumbled madness this morning.
In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting scandal in Ferguson, MO, James Foley being beheaded by ISIS and Robin Williams suicide, my mind spins. What’s going on? Are we losing our minds? Is this the ‘worst’ generation in history to have seen so much death, destruction, and chaos? What’s it all mean? We have instant access to the depths of darkness across the world.
I could persist and ask questions for days. My heart is heavy this morning because I realize even more than ever people all over the world are angry, they feel alone, and allow fear to rule choices and decisions. This isn’t a judgement that excludes myself, Americans, or Christians. It’s overwhelming all of us. The darkness is closing in. Where is the light? Where is it? Isn’t it hard to focus on the good that does happen every minute when media storms blow in the latest news?
Then, I remembered it was Red Day today.
Red Day at my son’s preschool. Jack woke up like every other morning, happy. The day he’s functioning in, IS the BEST day to him. Not yesterday or tomorrow, today. He woke me up earlier than planned and announced “It’s Red Day Mama! I’m like a firetruck” as he stood there beaming with pride on the fact that he got himself dressed in his red attire by himself. “Mama. Mama. Today is Red Day! I’m going to eat breakfast, with jelly on my toast, and then go to class with my friends to have red day.” Red day doesn’t really mean anything in adult social circles other than your child goes out in public dressed in everything red they have in their closet. It’s comical and I loved those days as a kid…I remember them well.
Sure, he doesn’t know anything about the things I mentioned above. He has no clue of everything that surrounds him. Why? Because he’s 3. He lives in America. We live in a nice neighborhood. He goes to school with friends and feels safe. He is surrounded by people that love him. And so he can focus on Red Day and that’s all. That’s why he is joyful, right? That’s why he won’t worry about things other kids worry about, because of his experiences and circumstances are protected, right?
I think that’s part of it, yes. I would be ignorant to say it’s not. But I don’t think that’s the core of it.
I couldn’t watch the footage or see the actual pictures of James Foley. I can only read so much about Ferguson, MO. Robin Williams and the depth of sadness he must have felt breaks my heart. Not because he’s a celebrity, but because he was a Dad. A Husband. A person. I can’t fathom the depths of life ending like any of these situations. Neither can my 3 year old. He’s focused on the light. Yes, childhood ignorance plays a role in this, and so goes my thought.
If Jesus, went to the cross and was brutally killed (whether you believe he is your Savior or just a historical figure) it seems like an inhuman act to do so. The weight of darkness would seem overwhelming. In fact, I know it was. He went to the garden to pray before his execution and was so overwhelmed his body started freaking out. My first instinct wouldn’t be to raise my hand and sign up for that kind of gift giving. I prefer giving to others in a way that doesn’t require much self-sacrifice…scandalous to say, I know. I think most of us actually if we thought about it, would agree, maybe silently, but still agree. Sure, we serve and give back and give our time, and money, and gifts and talents…but our lives? I mean…how often are we called to do that?
Whether you believe Jesus actually changed the course of human history by going to the cross or you think he was just a crazy man that stepped up to the plate and took it on his own shoulders to die in the name of people he loved, with no purpose, that’s between you and God. I’m not here to make the claim of a Savior, although my conviction is that he is mine. Don’t worry, the tangent is ending soon. So if he was so overwhelmed by darkness (Jesus) by knowing his execution was upon him, then why did he still have the ability to focus on the light? Where did his strength come from?
The Joy of the Lord is my Strength
I believe it was his child-like faith. Jack = Joy. If you’ve met my kid, you just know this to be true. It’s not a “my kid is better than your kid” statement. He still gets time outs and tests me daily. But he’s not just happy. He’s joyful. It’s different than happiness. And I know JOY can only come from one source. There is a power to that joy that I believe overwhelms the senses so that it’s not ignorant of the facts or reality, nor the depth of despair in those moments. Oh no. They are real, they are tangible in our lives and we see them, feel them, grieve them and yet… if plugged into the light source, the JOY from that source creates a foundation of resolve in the deepest part of our souls to press into life at it’s most raw moments.
We have to ask for it! We have to choose it and ask for it and pursue it. It’s a tricky little booger that we we all crave, we all desire and yet it’s not a given. It’s not just there. It needs to be fostered and looked after and cared for whether it’s through prayer, positive and motivating relationships, loving others more than ourselves or just focusing on the light.
- Joy does not tell us to forget, it pushes us towards forgiveness.
- Joy is not the absence of sadness, but the piece of our souls that presses us to pursue happiness.
- Joy is not a shield from hurt, but the very thing that fosters healing.
Joy is something you cannot feel when you’re depressed. There was a time I struggled with this during a season. I didn’t even have a choice in how I felt. I couldn’t change it and the work environment I was in was senselessly oppressive. It attacked my core and after many seasons of the same attack, it left me in a place of disillusionment. I couldn’t see that I was depressed, I could just feel it. I don’t use that word lightly either. I didn’t need medication, but my body started to act in a dysfunctional way – I was always sick, I had anxiety attacks weekly, if not multiple times, I gained weight and I had pre-ulcer in my stomach. Oh, yeah. It was intense. I had to start focusing on light. It was a road; a journey for sure. It wasn’t like a beam of light just shone thru the darkness. Nope. It was more like a pinhole sized light. It was there though. Always was…I just had to create the space for it to start shining in again.
So what do Jack and Jesus have in common?
Sorry it took me a while to get here. I told you my mind processes in tangents. The common core is that their source of joy is the same. And their souls are VERY close to the source. It’s not wavering, no matter the circumstances. And I realized as an adult, I want that kinda joy. I believe that I have pieces of it, but it’s NOT fully cured, for lack of a better word. The unwavering kind. The strength that resounds in the pits of my being, that brings forth life.
Because we all know that even as we pray for peace or resolve or rest, or whatever it may be that we feel would lessen tensions and provide common ground conversations, unless we are the change and foster that change nothing will change. We can hope it and wish it and pray it. Until the day I die, I will pursue that as my ultimate focus. To not be a fake happy person. But to dig into the depths of what real pure joy is and what impact that has in my life and others.