The Power of Joy
We have been discussing the power of choosing joy above our daily circumstances. Here our friend Kari Patterson stresses the reality that “we can live outside ourselves.” She walks us through the fundamentals of living an outward-focused lifestyle. By learning the value of our personal identities, and recognizing the mighty impact that can have on our ability to look beyond ourselves, joy can be fully claimed each and every day!
Sometimes it’s almost as if God has teaching-units.
His instruction is never random, but carefully planned, like lesson plans. And apparently last week’s unit for me was this:
The best and greatest joy is found living outside yourself.
Now, let’s be clear: I will likely need to learn this a thousand more times along this road of life. But last week it looked like this:
I wasn’t going to go. It was Compassion Connect–an outreach providing medical services for under-resourced people in Oregon City. Honestly, I didn’t want to go. Jeff was going to volunteer all day and I happily volunteered to stay home with the kids. My kids. (You know, the ones I like. Not other people’s kids.)
But then Jeff sprained his ankle, so at the last minute I threw on the purple issued volunteer t-shirt that read, “I volunteer because God loves you!” but really it should have read, “I volunteer because my husband sprained his ankle and someone had to come do this…and I really don’t like wearing purple.”
But to my everlasting wonder:
I came home FULL of joy.
The privilege of seeing hundreds of people served. Of sharing the love and truth of Jesus with six blessed spanish-speaking folks who had never heard the gospel. I came home brim full. Delirious with joy.
But then Monday, I turned again to Self.
Something triggered it and I picked it straight up like a tasty morsel, like a smooth, sweet piece of candy, and I slid it in my mouth. I tasted the self-pity. Let it melt in my mind. I could feel the insecurity, the desperate feeling for love and approval. I could feel my thoughts slipping further into self. Before I knew it I was tempted to try to think of something bad about another person–a condolence to make myself feel better. I began to slide…
But God’s gracious Holy Spirit stopped the slide. “Father help me live outside my self.” The simple plea slipped from my lips. And with the single, silent tear came His help, His presence, His answer:
“I love you. Let it go.”
I went downstairs, and what I “had” to do was read and watch a documentary on Intelligent Design and Creation. And even though it was so incredibly boring, and I didn’t understand half of it, it took me to Scripture and to the miraculous marvel of creation. To billions of stars and galaxies. To miraculous design. To His creation that speaks of His greatness. To all that reflects His glory.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)
And slowly my eyes were drawn up, out of self…and onto Him.
And joy came again.
Then DHS foster and adoption training came this weekend. Who wants to spend her sunny birthday weekend sitting in a small room, blinds shut, to learn about horrific topics like sexual abuse, abandonment, fetal alcohol syndrome, and the like?
But again, to my surprise, there was joy.
There was hope. There was a woman named Misty who stood before us and modeled to me the joy of a life outside herself. She has fostered 137 drug-affected infants. She and her husband have adopted nine children. The ones no one else wanted. And she was plain to look at and wore capri pants with slippers and I’ll just tell you straight up this lady didn’t spend much time on fixing up the outside.
But this lady was like pure joy bottled up in a body.
She loved those crack babies like nobody’s business. And she stuck with them when nobody else would take them. And she didn’t live perfect, but she lived outside herself.
And by the time she was done telling her story I wanted to be her when I grow up.
You know her secret? She knows Jesus.
See, when we truly know the love of God, when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved and accepted by Him. When our worth is not based on our performance, when we know that every ounce of our worth is wrapped up in the TRUTH that we are chosen, loved, adopted by God, we can then live outward-focused lives.
We can live outside ourselves.
And joy is found there. Life. Peace. Abundance. And now tonight I’m excited to attend the Door to Grace dinner – a ministry helping local victims of sex trafficking. I guess in some ways it doesn’t sound like the most fun thing. But a bunch of us ladies are piling in the car and seeking hard after joy, going to this thing.
Living outside ourselves can be going to an event or just going outside our self-interest, just for a second. It can be serving a toddler her lunch with a smile, or bowing low (again) to pick up his socks on the floor. It can be fostering, adopting, writing, laughing, learning, loving, giving. It can be anything that lifts our eyes to others and to Him.
There’s a lot of joy to be had outside ourselves.
Here’s to a week lived outside ourselves. What’s one way you can step outside yourself and your interests in order to learn, bless, serve, give? Try to identify one concrete way.