What do you choose?
As for me, I choose joy....
Last night as I was sitting in bed, thinking about how this irritated me and that aggravated me in this house of coughing and sniffling and getting on each other's nerves, I picked up the book, One Thousand Gifts. In it I read about how the tongue is the tail of the heart. Um. Okay. So my heart was causing my tongue to wag in a lot of ungracious ways. Often when I was alone and no one... but God... could hear.
No one... but God...??
Is that an oxymoron or what?
I opened the Voskamp book to where I had left off and I read about how her kids were breaking the rules, running in the house, when the lead runner smacked right into the glass front of the entertainment center and broke it. She heard glass tinkling and someone yelling in pain and her heart rate spiked. Then she heard accusative words and her blood pressure began to rise.
And when she got to the scene of the crime, she knew she had choices: complain or lament. She explained the difference. Complaint is venting without faith in God. It's what aroused God's anger with the ancient Israelites and got them in serious, deadly trouble in the wilderness. Lament is voicing frustration, anguish - with the expectation that God will hear and act. Complaint is dumping on others while leaving God out of the picture. Lament is drawing God into our moments of angst, irritation, and whatever.
Ann didn't want her tongue to wag and issue forth all the complaints that were coming from her heart but it happened anyway. And then she went to God with the cry of Psalm 73 - acknowledging that she must seem like a senseless animal to Him when her tongue is driven by a faithless, irritated heart.
And I sat there both convicted and amazed at how God brought the right words to me at the right time.
She was basically saying that God offers joy, day in and day out, even in the midst of kids bickering and broken glass lying on the carpet. But joy can be killed. Not by disobedient kids but by self. When our fist clenches, the fingers point back to us, to this: my demands, my rights, my self... And that's when joy dies.
The word "rights" brought me up short.
My demands may be unreasonable.
If it is a legitimate "right", then aren't I right to demand it?
Only if I don't want joy is it okay to hold to those everyday rights that sour me on others, God, and myself.
And then I read:
Though my marriage tree may not bud and though my crop of children may fail and my work produce little yield, though there is no money in the bank and no dream left in the heart, though others may choose different ways to live their one life, til my last heaving breath, I will fight to the death for this: "I will take joy." Hab. 3:18. (One Thousand Gifts, p. 176)
And below that I read:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." James 1:2
And I decided to let go of my rights - the ones I felt had been "violated" over this holiday period - and to take as much joy as I could from the flu, the coughing, the sniffles, the whole shebang for us this Christmas, existing here in a little house with maybe a tad too much togetherness..ha!
This morning, I choose joy.
By God's grace... today and everyday I will awaken with the decision to grasp joy instead of self.