I avoided being joyful for many years now. Yes, you heard that right. This gal is a bit twisted for sure, but it is the truth. At times, I was determined to believe that my life sucked, so my negativity bloomed in the soil in which it was planted, the depth of my heart. Anger inside of me from years of pain left me caustic and sarcastic. I wanted to stew in that reality at times because I was tired. I did not want to step out in faith or joy because deferred hope was the reality in my life for many years. I chose negativity. It seemed trendier to complain, gripe, and be negative, joining a worldwide club of cynics.
Over the past years, it seemed so cliché and trite, when I was going through hell, for someone to come up to me and speak about joy in Christ. My life, a self-fulfilling prophecy, set out to avoid a confrontation with joy simply because I was mad. Mad at God. (Where are those promises? Where are YOU?) Mad at people. Mad at anyone. My attitude showed it through and through.
My attitude was simple – nothing is going right. Nothing ever goes right. Why bother? Why try? It’s useless so I will just stay like this. Don’t come near me. (This is truth, guys.)
I know many of you who know me wonder how this bright glowing woman (LOL) could be negative and obtuse at times, confrontive and just plain ornery, as they say in the south. I was. I needed an overhaul in my life, so God ordained for my eyes to be opened in quite a simple, obscure way.
On my way to Finland, in the Seattle airport, I wanted something else to read, so I bought this book. It is called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In a crazy sort of way, I immediately felt guilty. I should know better. After all, I am a Christian for over 25 years. Shouldn’t I BE happy? Christ is in me. What’s up with me?
Over the next few weeks I began to read it, at first a bit slow, and then I voraciously dived into her story. God met me right where I was through this book. It happened within the first few chapters. She was talking about her life’s precepts and mandates. Her first commandment was simple “Be Gretchen”. Her premise, which I am, paraphrasing was simple. How much in her own life did she defer her own happiness? Doing things she did not want to do, with people she did not really want to be with, because she felt she should, or could, or would. Where was her joy, her happiness to enjoy her life………….her life?
Those words, along with the rest of the chapter, hit me with life, and truth, and light. You do know that God can and does speak outside of the Bible, don’t you? He speaks loud and clear in so many different ways to me. Those words hit hard. They pierced my heart. They consumed me. I put the book down and took out my journal and wrote this, “Be Debra”.
I said it to myself over and over.
Then I got angry, got up and paced the floor. I shouted inside to myself.
“Hey Debra, be Debra. For God’s sake, be Debra.”
My eyes were opened to see that all these years I have been in a bad mood at times because I was always looking out, looking around, looking up, looking down…losing Debra along the way. I would engage through guilt or fear in so many ways, it amazed me and angered me. I started to journal and journal over the next few days about my life. My dreams. My loves. My desires. In Christ.
A quick aside with a picture that just came to my mind. I kind of felt like Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias. Here’s the clip.
Compromise, confliction, and so much more left me caustic and sarcastic at times. I could level anyone with my words if I wanted to, and sometimes I just wanted to. The dream is requiring me to walk forward away from the past and into my future. Yet, I have to look at the now. The now must be dealt with as the Lord brings it to my memory. AND He is bringing much to my memory for which I feel sad, regretful, and remorseful. But, I don’t stay there. One day at a time, joy is being restored to my life in magnanimous ways (definition: generous, indulgent, big hearted). But, that does not mean that overnight, I will suddenly turn into a sweet, sugar coated and dripping with smiles woman. No, I will never be like that. I have an edge and I love it about myself. Yet, joy is consuming me and I must admit I love it.
Joy is opening my eyes to see what can’t be seen through fear. Joy restores the years that have been consumed by negativity or pain. Joy brings strength. Right now, I am singing the Hallelujah chorus. But………here is the funniest story. My husband, Mr. Positive in all ways, has been telling me this for years – sometimes kindly and sometimes with great rebuke. As we sat at a stoplight the other day, I was musing. Musing with my eyes looking temporal and eternity focused. Musing as if I had touched eternity with some deep profound thought.
In that state of bliss, my new self said, “Marvin, I have decided to be positive.” His jaw dropped BUT before he could say anything, I said, “I know. I know. You have been telling me this for years. But, you see, I have decided that it takes more energy to be negative than positive. You know, if I am positive about all things, knowing that Jesus Christ is, He just is, that life will flow again through me. The dam is broken and living water is flowing through. He knows me. Loves me. Likes me. Calls me. Sees me. So I guess I have just been in a bad mood for 40 years. I’m done.” Not knowing if the bubble would break if he said anything, he just smiled. And so did I. There I am, walking in the now into a great future, whatever may come our way, enjoying the journey.