Insisting Joy

I've been here two weeks and four days. I know time is a construct of our minds, but if you give your mind too much time, I think it starts to short-circuit.

I imagine I am the only one jobless in this cafe. I imagine everyone else is here because they're winding down and enjoying what's left of their Sunday before schedules resume their usual demand. I imagine I'm pocketed by groups of friends and lovers and coworkers who are ironing out the circumstances of their lives to be understood and worn by others. I imagine there is dreaming and scheming going on here over the flow of a life with momentum. I imagine I'm not allowed to fully enjoy my attendance here because I didn't earn the right to indulge this time. I didn't put in the hours of work this week for a paycheck to put towards leisure and pleasure.

In fact, I am only here in a desperate attempt to imitate some semblance of normality in my daily routine, while I wait and pray and write and toss side to side without someone else detailing my responsibilities for me. I have had way too much time to think.

In this imaginary world, I'm not a very fun person to be around.

On top of my general imaginings, one very conspicuous reality is the constant ache and gnawing occurring between my right shoulder blade and that muscle that runs along the length of your spine. For over a year, I would cramp like this during long bouts of playing piano, sitting upright in a plane without proper support for too long, washing dishes, or going on a run, even doing yoga, but it usually ended with the activity and I'd chalk it up to be an overworked muscle, and attempt to "stretch it out," though it seemed too deep to access.

For the past week I haven't been able to exert even a moderate amount of energy playing piano for thirty minutes without having it knot up, making it somewhat laborious to keep my right forearm propped high enough. I've caught myself holding my breath while washing dishes because inhales enhance the ache. I have to lie on my back and breathe deep and hold in frustrated tears because I'm here, I came, I'm in Austin, I'm not making an income yet, and now I am dealing with a physical nuisance. One that potentially hinders my physical and financial abilities to do what I wanted to come here and do well, on top of the emotional obstacles that accompany relocations.

Which, those I thought I was used to. I had put a lot of faith in my childhood experiences as a military kid and my being a reliable socialite to make it through.

Never mind that I was acting on big faith that God had something out here for me.

I've realized I put that much extra faith in what I could do, what I brought to the table, what my abilities would open up for me.

The permission to rely on my own strength and understanding is ever being taken away. I couldn't tell you that that imperative over my life is so far unique to this Texas experience. I have to say that for as long as I have walked with the Lord, this mandate seems to deepen with echoes of authority. It's becoming impossible for me to gauge my well-being off of anything but how well I am living by that premise. What I imagine is usually just my imagination.

I cannot rely on my own strength or understanding.

I go through seasons of feeling really good at doing that, and others not so much. That feeling of undeserved favor is easy to accept as His doing when people celebrate you and invest in your projects (which I have to acknowledge has been the case for me in this season, so I'm not excused.) God's strength seems a lot easier to access when it conveniently jives with the places in my life I already have experience in or passion for doing well. I will gladly receive the goodness and kindness of the Lord when I feel like I am making it easier for it to find me.

But when I discover that even my best doesn't seem good enough, or I'm daunted by circumstances outside of my control, I'm at the mercy of someone else's opinion of my value, I'm unpopular and unknown and unfamiliar, it's a lot harder to recognize the availability of His strength. Under those circumstances, it is easier for me to be dismayed because maybe, just maybe, I believe good fortune still somehow ultimately flows from just my ability to put my best foot forward.

And now especially, since this foot doesn't feel like stepping too much lately, cause it makes my shoulder cramp up and my lower back ache, and then I can't play piano...I readily admit that the majority of my time here has been spent wrestling the Lord. Simply between trying to believe His strength is actually available to me or sticking with mine. Between relying on my understanding or on His mysterious wisdom and provision. To gnash my teeth and to maintain this grip, this imaginary illusion of control, or to release and let God be God, and let Jesus be the only impressive person I know.

Decisions, decisions.

I don't know what they've told you. Just because you accept Christ once, doesn't mean you don't have to accept him again and again and again, possibly everyday, at least at every fork in the road.

Maybe the timeline of my life will look like a series of lines that illustrate all the moments I accepted Him afresh for being who He was and all the occasions I diverted from that belief. And it will, unfortunately, due to my inconsistency, look a lot more like a zig-zag than a perfect line.


I am waiting to hear back from some jobs. If they deny me, it's nothing personal. They really don't know who they're dealing with.

But the Lord does. I have to sigh out that truth but I don't want to accept it just as a copout. I want to accept it as joy, for the sake of whoever's reading this and for the sake of the rest of my life's trajectory. Even when it looks like He's absent, these other unpredictable factors in my life that look like other people, or injuries, or skill sets, or talents, or weaknesses, STILL have to go through Him. Nothing has been able to enter my life that He did not say was okay, and nothing--despite my best attempts to demand it stay--has remained when He made it clear to the depth of my spirit that it wasn't okay to stay.

I insist on the joy of the Lord because it would be foolish not to. When the authority of the Creator offers you what you can't understand, it is easier to sit on your hands and call Him a liar. But I don't believe He is a liar. And so far my hands haven't gotten me very far. So I insist on His joy.

I will wait for the breakthrough, the good news, the sudden opening, the moment of relief that is trademark Jesus. I will not have kicked the door down to it. I will not have impressed my way to it. I am grateful for that Holy Spirit He whispers what seems to good to be true and how I'm surrounded by a vocal, God-fearing community that is helping me to tread and keep my head above the storm of selfishness.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Every bit of goodness in our lives is a gift. Every bout of bad is temporary. He is good and He is lasting. I insist on being discontent without His joy, without His strength. I would not want to live deceived.

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