John Piper has an article – a list really – called “How Shall we Fight for Joy?“. The whole list is good, but I particularly like the first two entries: 1) Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift. 2) Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.
We can’t manufacture true joy because it’s a gift that only God can give; we can’t make ourselves feel joyful. But we can work hard to create the conditions that will facilitate God’s gift of joy in our life… and we must. We must “fight relentlessly” for joy; I love that expression.
It’s our job to steward our own joyfulness. God’s gift of joy is for all believers, and He’ll give it to us as we ask him for it. But are we collaborating with him? Are we creating the conditions in our life (like sufficient sleep, exercise, nutritious food, time with God and our spouse, friendship, Sabbath, recreation) that will help usher in his gift of joy? Will we receive His joy? Our do our souls, from lack of stewardship, have a figurative “mailbox full; please try again later” message that meets God whenever he tries to bestow the gift?
We mothers with necessarily full lives and plates need particularly to heed the call to fight relentlessly for joy. Covering the “basics” – those listed above – and thankful living are clear steps we can all take in this direction, but it’s not always enough. I remember a section in The Blessing of Skinned Knee in which author Wendy Mogel encounters a mother who confesses that she hates to watch her son play video games. He likes and asks her to though, and the mother feels badly about declining. Mogel’s advice is to intentionally select activities to do with her child that she and he both enjoy, and do those together. When I read it I remember thinking how patently obvious this was (and also thinking that I wouldn’t feel at all bad about declining to watch my kid play video games). Lately I thought about it again though. Am I intentionally seeking to engage in activities with my kids that I personally enjoy? Could I be doing more of that?
There’s a proactivity of thought and action that’s required. My son received some new puzzles for his fifth birthday, and the other morning he and his 3-year old sister and I spent at least 20 minutes working together on one; it was so fun. We should do that more. Baking – ditto. We do this often but we could build a morning baking hour into our week on a regular basis, and I bet we all would love it. Etc. [Needless to say, I am not advocating rejecting activities our kids’ enjoy, nor am I suggesting self-focus or selfishness. It’s a balance.]
Fighting relentlessly for joy also means that I will intentionally pursue independent activities that bring me joy, even if it is inconvenient and means a chore or two go uncompleted. Jogging two to three times a week is one activity I’m already doing in this category; my recent awareness of increasing joylessness prompts me to add more. Reading fiction for pleasure brings me joy but has fallen off my radar, and that would be an easy addition. So this week I’m initiating that.
What about you; what does your “relentless fight” for joy look like? I’m in learning mode here, so all thoughts are welcome…