Some time ago, I read something that resonated with me; it was something which only recently I could identify with. Kim, who blogs over at From the Heart Online recently wrote:
“If you’re thinking, ‘Joy isn’t happiness? What?! What’s the difference?’ I’m with you. Then I learned the difference - that happiness is an emotion, and joy is more a decision or belief.”1
This caused me to reflect on a recent change in my thought process. First and foremost, I’ve seen myself as a man for a number of years. My concept of manhood has defined my view of not only myself but others as well. If someone got in my personal space, I wouldn’t step back, I'd move forward. I learned to meet any perceived act of aggression or intimidation with resistance and force; push before someone pushes me was my thinking. I remember one night as a teen, I was standing outside a bar watching two men fight; it was the most intense physical conflict I’ve ever seen. What registered in my mind was that confrontations are a fight to the death; there can be only one victor, opposition must be vanquished.
Realizing there were problems in my marriage coincided with recognizing the failure of my relationship with Christ. But I still was comfortable with who I was and if others had a problem with me, it was essentially their problem. I began writing two years ago, and at the time it was a new experience for me. I joined a writer’s group who critiqued my fictional short stories on romance and relationships, I took classes on writing; I discovered a passion for writing. The irony here is that I was comfortable writing about fictional relationships while never having to address my own relationship issues. I did not write about Christ or Christianity although I did sense the Lord was trying to gain my attention.
When it became apparent that problems in my marriage weren’t being addressed, I decided to cease writing (in December, 2009) and rediscover the passion I once felt for Christ, my wife and my life. In January of this year I began daily prayer, bible study and meditation. During this time, the only thing I sensed from God was to start a blog but I resisted those thoughts because I felt I was in no position to talk to others about Christ. The more I prayed, the more distant my relationship seemed to be with the Lord. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t sense or feel His presence. I felt isolated from God, thinking He withheld communication from me and I didn’t understand why.
I was doing the things I’m supposed to do and yet it seemed as if things were actually getting worse. In March, I decided to start a blog because this was the only consistent area I believed God was directing me in. Still, I couldn’t understand why God remained silent to me. After all, this was a big risk I was taking to write about my relationship with Christ. In actuality, I began writing about a relationship with Christ; not my relationship with Christ.
I’ve only discovered recently the difference and it occurred in a way which could only have happened by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit.
I decided to clean a toilet.
I need to explain that first; I’ve come to acknowledge that I’m lazy. All my life, I’ve despised housework, deferring it to those I lived with. Secondly, I want to say, I cannot imagine the thoughts that my wife, children, mother and brothers held of me as I sat around watching television, or running off to do my own thing while there was work to be done, but in actuality, I really can imagine their thoughts.
As I cleaned this toilet, I wondered why I’ve avoided household chores and the Holy Spirit clearly enunciated the words because you’re lazy and selfish. As you can probably tell, the thing I’d been praying for, to feel the presence of God, to sense His direction in my life and to know He still loves me had been answered but I had not expected it to get this personal. Submitting my life to the authority of God meant that things were going to get ugly before they got better.
I’m cleaning a toilet and I’m enjoying it.
It occurs to me at this very moment something which I didn’t even recognize until just now.
The toilet was a metaphor of my life.
I desperately wanted my wife back but she’d convinced me that our marriage was over. Any attempt to talk with her was met with stiff impenetrable resistance. I could now feel the presence of God in a way I had never experienced before but my wife was no longer a part of this experience.
I love my wife. She is a gift from God and yet I took her for granted just as I’d done with Christ and everyone else. Apart from her, I am empty; a wandering vagabond.
Over a year ago, she decided to leave but she didn’t leave, physically. Emotionally, she’d left the building and make no mistake about it, this was all my fault. The house was large enough for us to conduct our lives separately but it’s not what I wanted. I’d created an impasse that undid the one person who really mattered to me.
Even though I wanted her back in my life, I still had not fundamentally changed from who I was before. I’m fortunate that the Lord understood me in ways I never imagined and just as He gave me the desire for daily prayer, bible study and meditation, I began doing household chores. Initially, I was doing just the easy things like taking out the garbage. I realize now that was the only thing I took ownership of.
Next, I took up the laundry and I even did some ironing. But again, these were things which I found easy to do and they didn’t seem to be cumbersome for me because it was something that occurred as a weekly (sometimes even bi-weekly) task. Soon, I found myself washing the dishes and I must admit that although I wasn’t trying to show her that I was changing, I recognized an evolution in my attitudes as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit influencing me to change; I did these tasks because I recognized they needed to be done and I really wanted to do them. Up until this point I’d never considered cleaning the bathroom as something which needed to be done (by me).
I believe this is a good breaking point so I'll stop and resume this discussion tomorrow.
"In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever."2
"...Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning."3
"Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit."4
You have been so gracious to me in ways which are totally unwarranted and yet, in spite of my ignorance and selfish ways, You penetrated the walls I erected around my life. I marvel now at how You are restoring me by breaking me down into workable parts that fit together in a way I could never manage on my own. How can I truly express my gratitude to You? You've given me joy, placing it before me much like a parent extends their hands to an infant preparing to take those first of many steps. Thank You for a wife who loves me, in spite of me. Through her, You continually bless and enrich my life. Thank you for allowing me to experience such joy. My journey has not been without hazards and difficulties but You've been right here with me through every one. I bless the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. Thank you for those who took up the fight of spiritual warfare on behalf of me. They never ceased to pray for me. It is because of their example that I have taken up the mantle to pray for the needs of others. It is a joy I share with so many others standing before me. I count it all joy. Thank You Holy Spirit, for the gentle manner You employed to gain my trust in You. You fill me with a love, joy and hope that overflows. Amen.
- Lies That Rob Me of Joy: Lie #4, written by Kim, for the blog From the Heart Online, August 19, 2010
- Psalm 16:11, NASB
- Psalm 30:5, NASB
- Psalm 51:12, NASB
- From the Heart Online, Blog written by Kim
- The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6