A friend of mine asked me a question recently. She said, “In this season that you are in right now, what does ‘the joy of The Lord is my strength’ mean to you?” I have been thinking about it for the past couple of days now, but mostly just thinking about thinking about it. And as a result have had one of those 90’s Passion worship songs running through my head non stop. It made me wonder why I never stopped to ask the Lord what that really meant back then? I just put it on like a coat, hoping it would actually become a part of me.
This morning I actually sat down and let my mind wander through the words. I certainly don’t think I had any grandiose revelation from the Lord about it, but I do feel like it has been a timely thing to think through considering a new type of peace, and connectedness I’ve felt to the Lord over the past month and a half, which has resulted in a lot of….joy. Whispers of a new kind of joy I haven’t really known before.
He’s recently been showing me how much I get in the way of my “oneness” with Him. Things like when I feel guilty about eating something, watching something, reading something, avoiding something – I shut him out of it. I don’t let Him into it with me. Until I do something I feel rather Ok with, or even proud of. Then I let him back in, but it doesn’t feel the same. Because I just slammed a door in His face and acted like we could just pick up right where we left off without addressing why I slammed the door in His face.
I’ve started to experience this “oneness” with Him, even bringing Him into my sin – especially into my sin. Sometimes I end up choosing Him, and a lot of times I choose me still, but at least the conversation is open. Practicing this has brought me a lot of…peace. No running, no hiding, no striving.
But I started to realize that it wasn’t just me and my choices that could get in the way of my peace. My responses to circumstances and people would take away my peace too. Adam and I were at the airport last Wednesday. We were waiting in the security line and one of the TSA employees pulled me aside and asked me whether or not I would like to “opt out” of going through the new sci fi x-ray machine they have you stand in like a criminal. She notified me that it is safe for the baby, but some Moms choose to get a voluntary pat down instead. “No, that’s cool I’m fine with risking the health and wellness of my baby…..Of course I’m going to choose the voluntary pat down!” So they pulled me and another pregnant women aside and radioed for a female, certified, frisker to cone make sure we weren’t hiding any bombs in our baby bumps. About 5 minutes went by, another TSA employee showed me a sign stating the safety of their devices. 10 minutes went by, 15 minutes, 17 minutes and I ended up having to threaten a fainting spell (which did indeed happen the very last time I was at the airport) for them to finally call me over. It was obnoxious. It was unnecessary. Some might say it was manipulative. And, of course we huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow any of the circumstances away.
When we reached our seats on the airplane, I felt unsettled. I felt tense. I felt bothered. A stark contrast to what I had been experiencing in my recent days in Hermitville. I didn’t like it. I thought through the events of the past 25 minutes or so, and the ways any of it could have played out differently. Ultimately, the only thing I could control was my response – how I let this circumstance affect me. Up until this point I probably would have scolded myself inside and thought, “If only you were more self-controlled…That’s totally not what Jesus would have done….You call yourself a christian?….You’re never really going to change….” Instead of all of that non-sense I heard something different, “Don’t let anything steal your peace.” You mean this doesn’t have to be about me measuring up to a certain standard? You mean this can actually be a matter of just choosing what I want to experience?
No matter how justified I may have been in getting worked up, was it worth relinquishing the peace Christ paid for me to have?
I began to see how I have control over that peace, the peace that brings me joy throughout my day. That peace and joy is always there. It’s always available to me in plenty, but so often I give it away. I give it away in my impatience at the old man arguing over 30 cents in the grocery store check out line. I give it away when that car cuts me off on the highway. I give it away when that friend says that hurtful thing. The lie is that I have to give up the peace, the joy, because of the injustice done. It’s the belief that justice will not be upheld without my reaction, my petition – whether experienced inwardly or outwardly. And in all of this He says, “Get out of my chair!” (Thanks Tim Keller – life changing sentence for me, really!)
In this story, joy becomes the victor. How can I respond, choose, react so that joy and peace win out over this circumstance, this comment, this trial? When we’ve tasted, seen, experienced His goodness, is there anything stronger to help us defeat sin and discouragement than the seeking and maintaining of the joy through oneness with Him? It has power to shatter any means of measuring up. It snaps the measuring stick in half and drops it in the dumpster when we’ve learned to commune with Him in a way that has nothing to do with a standard or a time slot, but in a way that we feel the very fibers of the rug that Mary sat upon at Jesus’ feet.
The joy of the Lord most certainly is my strength.