Benny the obese PomChi breathes deeply next to me, lost in whatever dreamland dogs enter in sleep. Blue the wiener dog slumbers as well, in the recliner across the room, curled up in what we call the “crabby ball.” Potato soup simmers in the slow cooker, ready to take its place at dinnertime; a nice hot meal on a cold, gray day. Neatly wrapped presents (full disclosure: my husband handled those) nestle next to colorful gift bags topped with delicate tissue paper (my work) beneath the tree. Clear twinkle lights cast warm light, reflecting off of the white glitter snowflakes my parents purchased for their first Christmas tree. I tried having a decorative theme at one point, but its all lost in a jumble of homemade ornaments, obnoxious nutcrackers that Chris collects specifically because they creep me out and, of course, Batman.
Because who wouldn’t want Batman on the tree?
In my denomination, this third week of Advent focuses on joy. We tend to hyper-spiritualize that word. Joy is somehow “better” than happy, because joy transcends circumstance. Happy is an emotion. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
Except that the word is defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”
God cares about our happiness. He wants us to experience a feeling of great pleasure. This matters so much to Him that His Holy Spirit actually works to develop this quality, this feeling, inside us. No, He doesn’t give us what we want all the time. As they say, He is not a vending machine. Nor does He function as some fearful, boundary-less parent who has given His children free reign. Instead, He gives us new eyes. He shifts our perspective. We begin to see blessing in each day. We begin to feel joy even in the darkest moments.
It’s not automatic. The indwelling of the Spirit does not render us robots. We have choices. We can reject the beauty and the light. We can decide that we’re just going to be cranky and hate everything and nothing will ever be good again and it all sucks so why even try? I do that more than I like to admit.
But God will not be denied. As we have choices, so does He. We may choose to close our eyes to Him and throw a fit, but He’s still there. He does not leave us. He stands ready to show us something wonderful in every moment. Willing to hold us close. More than capable of whispering precious things into our souls, things that keep us buoyed throughout the tempest.
Chances are very good that an upper gastrointestinal scope is in my near future. I woke up with a slightly sore throat that has worsened throughout the day. It’s difficult not to give in to pessimism and despair.
My eyes linger on the lights. My ears are soothed by the rhythm of canine breathing. My nose is tantalized by the scents coming from the kitchen.
My body is still falling apart.
So it will be this side of Heaven.
But in this moment, I choose the joy. I choose to see what He sees. I am thankful for the warmth of my small, cozy home. I take pleasure in the Christmas tree. I wiggle my toes inside the heavy socks and lined slippers. I’m always cold these days, so I’m glad for the fuzzy blanket and the puffy vest. I appreciate disgusting herbal cough drops.
All very simple.
All very good.