The phone rang and I answered.
It was a kind gentleman that we know who has one of those personalities that could charm Mr. Scrooge. I asked, “How are you?”
He answered, “I am blessed. How are you?”
I froze… he happened to ask that question on a rather rotten morning for me, and I didn’t expect him to answer the way he did, nor to pose the question back to me.
I wanted to answer, “Well, actually, I am having a horrible day, I don’t feel blessed whatsoever, and by the way, the sky is falling. So there. Yeah.”
What came out of my mouth was a sadistic “Heh.”… complete with a sadistic smile and a sadistic laugh and an embarrassed clearing of my throat. And it only took two seconds for me to actually resent his ‘feeling so blessed all the time’ and ‘being happy no matter what’ when some of us, SOME of us, MIGHT be suffering. And this thought was followed by, man, I look like an idiot now. So much for being the ‘mature’ Christian. Yeah, he’s one of those newbies that’s all ‘Praise the Lord and let’s all die for the faith, man, even though I have 7 tattoos so you can see where I’ve been’ guys. But at the very least, with MY one tattoo, I should be at least a slightly good example. Nah. I failed. Epicly.
By the end of our conversation, I apologized for my attitude and acknowledged that indeed we ARE all blessed and it is the truth, but I don’t feel it much of the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read all the books. You know, those books like “Your Best Happy Clappy Life Now“, “The Joyful Millionaire with the Perfect Marriage, Perfect House, Perfect Kids, and Perfect Set of Inherited Silver Spoons Next Door“, and “How to Throw a Party in the Food Stamp Line.” And I’ve read the blogs. You know, the ones like “My Heaven on Earth: How I Home School My Genius Children While My Home Cleans Itself (Check Out My Perfect Pictures)” and “How I Cook Gourmet Meals and Sew All My Clothes and Churn Butter While My 20 Children Obediently Help Me”. And then there’s those Facebook statuses: “I and my kids are scheduled to have our heads cut off today, and we are just so happy because it’s the Lord’s Will” and “Happy 2 month Anniversary to the angel I am married to who surpasses a Greek God(dess). We are so gushingly in love and perfect. Lol. Kiss hug kiss hug sweetie. Heart heart heart. ”
Can you tell these things have always turned me off rather than cheering me up?
It took a bible study with some beautiful women a few weeks ago to realize that the problem wasn’t necessarily with them. It was with me.
Why does someone else’s joy bother me?
Well, I think first of all, in my defense, there are those whose joy is not genuine, but a rather large dose of denial. I like to call these people “Floaty Christians” or “Floaty Catholics”. (There are also Floaty Media people and Floaty Politicians.) There could be a train wreck happening in front of them and they would be staring off into some unseen space with a ‘holy’ look on their faces as they say ‘This must be God’s will and something good will come from this…’ and they float in slow motion and continue gazing upwards and eventually close their eyes in prayer and float away into the distance of mysterious angelic bliss….
And then there’s the eternal optimist salesperson whose smile rivals Big Bird’s. They smile almost vengefully at another’s pain, as if to say well I’M happy because the sky is blue and oh, what a pity you don’t feel that way, and I’ll pray for you from my fine-and-dandiness pedestal. *Big Huge Grin*
And then there’s the faker. It’s almost like they’re reading script. But they say the right things because they would be too guilty to reveal how they really feel, so mainly their lips are sealed, but they are quick with those bible verses or saint quotes from someone else who was truly joyful.
But back to this being about why I have been bothered, whether by the fake, or by the genuine, statement of blessing and joy in the midst of hardship.
It’s because I thought the joy meant I had to FEEL it.
Back to that bible study where we are studying the book of James… Right in the beginning of this short book, it says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2
Whoa. That one sentence got to me. I know the bible, at least, I know most of the books. But I hadn’t paid much attention to some of those little books before. And that sentence was for me.
Upon further discussion, these beautiful ladies comforted me in describing joy… it is more like peace in knowing you are in God’s will, contentment for reasons that sometimes can’t be explained, for confidence in the truth… even if you are sobbing. It is not usually happy clappy giddiness. Or fake smiling. Or proud smiling in the face of another. It is just a deep down genuine joy that is not dependent on our very real emotions.
I had the pleasure of getting together with a friend yesterday. I asked her the same question I posed at the beginning of this posting: “How are you?”
With deep tears in her eyes, she answered, “I am blessed.”
That, my friends, is joy. Knowing we are blessed even when life is dishing out nastiness at us, people treat us with hate or unforgiveness, when we aren’t sure the bills are going to be covered this month or even today, when everything seems to be breaking, when our relationships with loved ones are strained, and when we just can’t seem to overcome certain hurdles no matter how we try.
Knowing we are blessed (meaning God allows and gives us everything for our ultimate good, if only we’ll take Him up on it), even through our genuine tears… that is joy. This is what I wish for you and for me…