Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Choose Joy

Sadness drapes my shoulder like an ill-fitting frock, tattered and torn from too much use. I would prefer not to be wearing it at all, but everything else in my wardrobe of emotions seems oddly inappropriate this season.

This untidy display must seem unnecessarily dramatic to the casual observer. After all, my losses are the occurrences of an ordinary life. Families move. Groups multiply, Schedules change. Friends disappoint. I wish the fashion police of my unkempt soul would blow his whistle and command, “There is nothing to see, here, folks. Move along now.”

For the people who linger questioningly over me, I can explain. There is no definitive scale for sadness. Each person’s sorrow is uniquely hers. It is what she can bear—or not bear—at the moment. Examining it in light of someone else’s cause for sorrow is pointless. Sorrows cannot be compared.

Furthermore the weight of sorrow is cumulative. Each sorrow compounds the loss of what has gone before. What else could explain the peculiar tears that appeared when I was making plans to ship a dog and a cat to their owner? A dog and cat that aren’t even mine! Their removal from my life is merely the latest in a growing series of losses.

I am tempted to protect myself as I skulk through my days in this misshapen garment of sadness. Today I found myself avoiding certain aisles at the grocery store, aisles with baby items, aisles with tempting children’s treats, aisles with pet supplies—all aisles that bring back memories of happier times. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I retraced my steps, knowing that succumbing to an avoidance pattern would produce an increasingly narrow world.

All is not loss. In spite of the dark tone of these mournful musings, I am reminded continually there is One who never changes. I cling to the truth that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). While the circumstances of my life waver, the One in whom I find life never does. People may come and go, but Jesus has consistently lived up to his promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). If you too have locked arms with Jesus to steady yourself in an unsteady world, then you will understand the statement I am about to make.

In the midst of sorrow, I choose joy.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,  and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:10-11)

(If you see me around still dressed in tatters, please remember emotions don’t immediately answer to decisions of the will.)