On the Eve of this new year, and of years past, I often feel tempted to improve myself. I look at the women on tv who are advertising their new clothes, shoes, make up, toothpaste, and athletic wear. I listen to the enemy and his lies about how much I fall short, of how much work I need to do on myself, of how I will never be enough. I tell myself I can look like the women on TV if I worked harder. A lot of ideas float between my ears about how I can improve. Thankfully, I have learned pretty much how to recognize the lies.
Galatians 6 4:5 reminds us..
Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments WITHOUT COMPARING yourself to others. Assume your own responsibility.
Read that again.
It is perfectly normal to want to improve, get healthy, work harder at something or to achieve different outcomes. The key here is doing these things because you want them, not because you want to be, look, seem or act like someone else.
Goals are hard. Period. Goals are meant for us to feel accomplishment and satisfaction but if your goal is to become someone other than who you are, or to move away from who you are, well... who's going to be cheering you on if you are too busy beating yourself up to be like someone else?
All change needs to come from a place of self love, self acknowledgment, and self praise. God is in the change you want. I do know that. I am also a part of your goal setting as your accountability partner but you have to get right with yourself first before you seek to change. Doing anything out of self-loathing is not the best move, my friends. Please don't seek to alter your life to be like someone you see. Happy, positive, self talk is key. Praying for self love is key. Praying for guidance and support is key.
You matter. Just as you are. So, if anything..take that in to this new year. You want to change? Take self love with you and see the glory.
I hold my breath. I can't tell you the number of times people in my life have told me to breathe... like literally, to take a deep breath. If I have something important I am doing, I just move along until I am finished and then, if I remember to, I will pause long enough to breathe a great big healthy long breath in and hold it for a bit before I exhale.
Sometimes that doesn't work for me. Sometimes the thing I am going to quickly finish or "fix" takes a really long time and if I don't stop every now and again to pause, breathe in and start again ,I will fall short in exhaustion.
Now let's talk about the same concept with JOY. (Come to REAL LIFE AUSTIN SUNDAYS AT 9:30 and 11 to hear this months sermons on Joy at Bowie High School)
If you are like me, you will allow and experience joy ONCE you have everything all tidied up and neatly taken care of. You will allow joy once you get a job, once your kids are healthy, once you get married, once you lose weight. You will feel worthy of joy once you make the team, the promotion, the diagnoses are all clear. You will allow joy when life is okay again.
Let me point out the "fault" with that thinking. Joy is all around you. Yes, even in the pain, the hurt, the worry, the fear, the illness. If we wait, dear friends, if we wait to feel joy only when everything is okay, we will be side swiped with another round of "something else" and we just keep putting off joy for a time that may never happen.
How, then, do we attempt to allow and experience joy when a child is a heroin addict and missing? How do we attempt to allow and experience joy when someone else has been diagnosed with Cancer or diabetes? How do we allow our selves the freedom to feel joy when someone next to us is going through a divorce and her pain is so very strong?
There is a certain peace in knowing that God is in charge, not me, and somewhere in the midst of sadness, I am able to feel a bright spot which I call joy.
There's a certain joy that comes when I say "Your will, not mine be done." Even if that joy is for one minute in between the tears, I can feel it.
There's joy in that worship song you can listen to as you are driving to the doctor, or to the tenth job interview. Even if it lasts three minutes.
There's joy in the sunshine that reminds you life will be eternally bright one day.
There's joy in looking around at the children in your home, your church, the coffee shop or the theatre and seeing the hope in their eyes.
There's joy if someone reaches for your hand, asks your for coffee, sends you a text, gives you a hug.
There's joy when you fall asleep next to your child or your spouse or, if no one is there, there's joy in holding your Bible or a cross instead.
This is not an easy task for some of us. I am not saying that Joy will replace and fix all that is going on in your life or around you but I am saying that if you wait for everything to be "okay" before you breathe in a breath of joy, then you just may miss the daily dose of joy that truly is circling around you at this very moment.
A client of mine was looking for a job. She was getting pretty down about her employment status. She didn't wait until she was employed to find joy. She went for a hike and embraced the trees and was grateful that despite her fear and worry, that she could breathe and that she could hike. She could've sat on her couch, frozen, not breathing deep breaths or noticing joy until her perfect job came but if she did that, well, she wouldn't have seen what was moving all around beside her. She did her part. She actively participated in meeting her goals but she managed to keep breathing until she got there. (And she did get the job she wanted by the way)!
Waiting for the storms to pass and holding our breath will steal the joy away. It's there, the joy, you just need to actively seek it.
Is the addict still using? Is the cancer still there? Is the divorce still going on? Is the proverbial child still wandering? I know it hurts my friend, but please don't stop "breathing" and seeking joy.
John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Find the peace and the joy in the tiny little things God is sprinkling all around you. I am here to help.