Sunday, April 27, 2014

Choosing Joy, Joy, Joy

They say ministry is a two-way street. They aren't kidding.

Recently God got to me through a blog post from a student in my youth group. Excellent and winsome piece, about choosing joy - both for your own sanity and that of those around you. (You know what they say about love - it's not a feeling but a choice. Same with joy.)

Already feeling vaguely busted, I scroll down and see that she ended the post with a link to the Rend Collective song "Joy". Hmm...never heard that particular band before. A lot of you just fell out of your chairs. Yeah, and I don't really enjoy The Fray, Shane and Shane, or Dave Matthews either. I just alienated most of the planet in one fell swoop. Mwahahaha.

Anyway, I give the song a whirl - it's fast, catchy rhythm, its whimsical banjo notes, its raucous whoa-oa-oas (something I usually avoid whenever I pick out songs for church worship because, well, we're Baptists) and its refrain of "joy, joy, joy!"

And immediately, I'm of two minds.

Part of me goes " in joy? All the time? As a choice? That...would be great!"

The other part of me goes, "Ugh. This song is positively too happy. This is for those free spirits who are always skipping around singing about kittens and stuff."

I've spent many years grappling with big questions. Why does a loving God allow suffering. Where is the beauty in the ashes. What is God teaching us in the difficult times. How do we handle hope. A part of me sometimes feels older than it should.

Not that these questions aren't worthwhile, even necessary in their time. But I'd allowed them to occupy a pretty big chunk of my life's thoughts. I just think deep. It's my bent. And my current mission - teaching at a reservation school - naturally does little to drive these questions away.

I'd kinda come to the feeling that the right posture towards life should be one of grim determination - to fight in Jesus' name, to trust him to do big things, to take up my cross. Always a cause to follow, always a sin to forsake. It sounds holy, at least, right? And realistic. Life in the kingdom is certainly not peaches and cream all the time.

So when I hear "joy, joy, joy", something unfiltered in me goes, "C'mon, God. Banjos? I'm not a kid. Reality is bigger than this. I need my heavy."

Well, God had a quick comeback for that.

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." - Mark 10:15

And the thing about children - they tend to be happier. Less sobriety, more innocence, trust, and joy.

I'm reminded of another song - not a Christian one, but one whose refrain unexpectedly grabbed at me when I first heard it. Some of you younger folk might know this one.

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes
Sayin' hey-yo, gotta let go
I wanna celebrate and live my life

I know. Taio Cruz? Really, Brandon? Go back to K-LOVE. But when I heard the lyric, years ago, I swear God spoke through it. That it had been a long time since my life looked like celebrating and living my life.

And that's insane! I have every reason to celebrate, far more than the guy who wrote that song. Despite being a secular song, it's truer for Christians than anyone else. I have Christ! I have eternal life. When Jesus gave his disciples their final lesson before being crucified, he revealed the purpose of everything he was going to do: to make them one with him and the Father, through the forgiveness of their sins, and then he throws in this...

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." - John 15:11

For Pete's sake, joy was part of the whole idea behind Jesus' work! This is not supposed to be some glum monastery where people groan over the difficult things and intentionally lie on bare ground when a mattress is available. Jesus wants us to remain in him, and remaining in him means joy.

So...I tried it. Let things go. Listened to that song over and over.

And I had a great weekend. God was so present. We talked about stuff. I surrendered stuff. Peace came. I lifted my head and sang freely during Sunday worship. It makes you want to build a habit out of it.

Let's be intentional about our joy. It's slippery enough as it is. And if you don't have any in your pursuit of Jesus, then something's missing. Find some upbeat music. Plan a night out (or in) with buddies. Watch a sunrise. Call an old friend you haven't heard from in a while. Run around with some little kids. Better yet, ask God what joy he might want to send your way. He wants you to have joy. He keeps bringing me back to it. Amazing how I keep forgetting this. He's a good Father.

Maybe an unbearably cute kitten would do me some good!

(P.S. I had literally just posted this when someone else on Facebook posted a video of Natalie Grant's "In the End", featuring...yep...banjos. God's here.)

No comments:

Post a Comment