I’ve had a taste and now I want more. I’m not being greedy or demanding or ‘push in line’ about it. It’s just that I have had a taste and I long for more.
There are wafts of joy coming from the kitchen. There is a party going on and I can hear music, and the delight of dance. I’m invited, actually I’m their special guest.
It’s a serious party, in the meaning that this is the total focus of all that they do.
[pullquote]Joy is the serious business of heaven C.S Lewis Click to Tweet[/pullquote]
This is one of those areas of I and Thou that is probably impossible to fully get without some kind of letting go of baggage.
Baggage of disbelief.
Could it be possible that the creator of all things, beautiful and good, is joyous over you.
Like, I don’t just mean humming a happy little song, I mean a full on, rip snorting party of celebration.
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zephaniah 3:17
Kind of embarrassing to have a heavenly party going on because of little old you isn’t it. Yet in that swirl of giddy delight we find our strength. It’s a secure place, a place where nothing could alter the rhythm and it goes on forever.
Ever had a rule book read out to you? Like it’s the opposite of joy isn’t it. Yet in a book of the Bible we see this as an entry point to joy. The law-book had been pulled out and been read to them. Word by word, edict by edict.
Ever had that happen to you? You feel burdened down, guilt laden,and showered in shame.
It was around 444 BC and the people of Jerusalem had just rebuilt the city wall. The wall, the boundary of significance and strength, had fallen down and they had no sense of security and identity. Anyone could plunder them. They felt vulnerable and exposed.
I think of the many people I have talked with who have felt this way. Their walls of significance and self-worth being torn down by successive assaults of abuse.
Now the walls were rebuilt, they had a sense of who they were again. The people gathered together in front of their place of worship, a huge and beautiful temple. Ancient manuscripts were brought out, dusted off, and read to the people. Law after law, precept after precept was laid down upon their shoulders. They came to realise just how far they had strayed away from following God.
Grief filled their hearts at just how much they had erred.
Then the speaker suddenly flipped it on its head. Instead of this being a telling off and a whipping into line, he invited them to party. There was a call to celebration.
The Joy of the Lord is your Strength.
The invitation was to enter into a city of strength not made by human hands. It was a city of joy. With strong impenetrable eternal walls.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:9-10
In the original Hebrew the word we have translated as strength refers to a place or means of safety, protection,
The Joy of the Lord is a place or means of safety, protection.
So lets take this a little further. If you could imagine there is this joyous party going on and you are at the centre of it. This is a free-flowing, ‘I want to try to out do you’ expression of joy between Father, Son and Spirit (perichoresis joy). Each member expressing delight and you, yes you, are right in the middle of it.
Here is another story that reveals this party.
Jesus tells the story of the Loving father where a wayward son comes home after leading a life of debauchery. Does the Father ‘read the law’ out to him? No he welcomes the son home, arms wide open, throws a party. The son has returned home and he is overwhelmed with Joy.
There is a party going on, right now, and you’re invited.
The invitation card is issued and its all about repentance and reception. It’s about grief and delight. It’s about brokenness and presence. It’s about self-sufficiency and self abandonment to the giddy swirl of delight.
Are you willing to dream for more? How do you enter into that City of Joy.
Here is how.
- Recognise your hunger. Yes its there. Your tired of the fleeting joy that self-sufficiency gives and you know that some thing deeper, more lasting and satisfying is there for you. Yet it requires surrender.
- Reflect on how you have tried to find sources of Joy apart from God. We have all done it and will continue to do so. We, like that prodigal son, choose to wander rebelliously away from home to places where we foolishly suppose we are in control. I want it all, I want it now and I want it my way.
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
- Repent. Turn around. Just stop and come to your senses. Come to smell, taste, see, feel and hear the depravity of life without the fullness of the embrace of Gods rich presence. Turn back, its ok, you won’t be rejected or made to feel small. The wide embracing arms of presence won’t suffocate or stifle your expressions.
- Refocus on what truly is going on. There is a party going on and you’re invited. There are invitations to joy all around you. God has presented an invitation card to you and its RSVP is now. All creation shouts out ‘come’. So have you paused long enough to truly give embrace to it? Focus on the beauty of Gods joyous creativity. Such fun was had when making that elephant, tulip, and tree. Take in the smell of a rose and invite God to fill your soul with joy.
- Repeat. This is a lifetime journey of rinse and repeat. Of learning the rhythm and dance steps of Father, Son and Spirit.
Joy comes from an unexpected place. Perhaps we have been looking for it all the wrong places and in the wrong ways.
Quotes to consider
- All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’ C.S. Lewis Click to Tweet
- Our generation has lost the concept of finding joy in unfulfilled desire. We no longer know what it means to hope. We want what we want now. Unsatisfied desire has become to us like a bad toothache that justifiably demands quick relief at any cost. It was meant to be road sign pointing us on to a better place. Dr. Larry Crabb Shattered
- The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation. CS Lewis Click to Tweet
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