22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
I'm back from the Rev Gal Big Event and it was a wonderful time of physical, emotional, and spiritual renewal. I have several revelations to share and most of them will make it to the blog in due time. But the one that is most prominent in my mind and heart is "joy."
I had a great deal of fun on this trip and experienced several moments of pure joy: Riding on the bow of the catamaran across water that was countless shades of blue and turquoise. Snorkling and seeing at least 20 different kinds of vibrantly colored tropical fish in spite of the fact there were 40 of us in the water. Line dancing on the deck of same catamaran (much easier said than done, trust me.) Listening to my sisters in Christ as they shared their heart stories. Watching someone I admire see beauty in herself. Did I mention the blue green ocean in a thousand shades? Did you know that sea foam green is a real color in the wake of a ship? God's creation is truly awesome.
All this joy filled me up and made me smile even when I wasn't thinking about it. It made me realize joy has been missing from my life for a good while. I haven't smiled spontaneously in a long long time. Nov. 2006 to the end of 2007 was a hard period in our lives. In the last few weeks, as I began to feel rested and not tired all the time, I have been more joyful. I noticed the change when people ask me how I'm doing and I really am "good" or "well" as I usually respond.
The evening at the end of the day with the catamaran ride and snorkling, I was doing some of the "homework" we were given the option of doing as a part of our retreat. The scripture reading was the above passage. I have read this passage many times, but it never really dawned on me that not only is joy listed as Fruit of the Spirit, it comes second only after love. I had not really thought that being Spirit filled would/should bring joy.
I am coming to realize that joy is part of the lesson I am to learn while in my position at the conference office. This position is important, but doesn't require as much of my energy as pastoring a church. I have the time to learn about joy, and re-creation, and fun right now in this place.
You may ask why joy is a lesson to be learned. Here's the message I'm getting. "Who wants a pastor for whom every task is a duty and burden? How can a pastor who never finds joy be effective ?" I've been so tired for so long and fighting such difficult times, I had forgotten how to find joy in the journey. This is not to say that one has to be up and happy inspite of all circumstances. Joy is not happiness. Joy is a deep down thing that goes beyond circumstances. It involves finding the good in life inspite of the hard stuff.
Today, as I pondered what to put in this post, I Corinthians 13 came to mind. If love is listed first as Fruit of the Spirit and joy is listed next, I wondered what would happen if I replaced the word love with the word joy. How would that read? How would it speak to me? So with apologies to Paul, here it is:
1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have joy, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have joy, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have joy, I gain nothing. I Corinthians 13:1-3
Hmmm. Powerful stuff. I wonder what would happen if I work my way down the list of Fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps in the coming weeks.
God of wonder, God of love, thank you for the blessing of joy. Help me share it with those around me. Amen.