As we prepared to head to worship this morning, we plotted a fun afternoon visit to the salon for pedicures. My 4-year-old asked if she could get both her toenails and her fingernails painted. She asked, assuming the answer would be yes and she would get what she wanted. I said no. I could paint her fingernails at home. My daughter began to pout! I scolded her for selfish behavior and she immediately burst into tears. My reaction was perhaps a little too intense – but it was upsetting she was so concerned with wanting more that she forgot to be thankful for the gift she was to receive!
Granted, she is only 4 years old. But her response is reflective of the consumer-driven culture we live in… we get what we want when we want it! We have redefined joy! We convince ourselves that happiness lies just beyond the next purchase.
Sure, the things we buy bring pleasure. But is there more? At church this morning we talked about faith practices – prayer, service, giving, worship. These are things we do – action with which we work to deepen faith. The tricky part is explaining why we do these things. It might seem we “do” to please God or earn God’s favor. That might be true, but I believe we “work” because it makes life more fulfilling.
I know I have been gifted with love and made righteous through no act of my own. I am saved by faith alone – a free gift. But when I work to more fully trust God’s presence, the joy I experience is more fulfilling! This joy rises from a peace in seeing God move in and around all areas of life. This joy far outweighs the simple pleasures obtained from things we purchase or trips we take!
So how do you explain this kind of joy to someone who has never experienced it? Faith is not important to a lot of people. Why work to deepen relationship with God when I can easily obtain happiness on my own? We are supposed to buy happiness. We seek joy by getting the pedicure AND the manicure, and nothing less will do. There is no joy to be had unless I get all that I desire!
But oh, there is SO much more! It is hard to explain the difference between the simple human happiness we can acquire and the deep peace experienced by trusting God. But when we turn off the voices of the world we know this work required to deepen relationship with God is work we get to do, not something we have to do.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
After my daughter’s meltdown, I pulled her aside and in a total “mom” moment tried to use her pedicure tears to teach a lesson. Really, I think the lesson was more for myself. We had just finished this faith formation class declaring this great joy we find when we intentionally build relationship with God. I need the reminder! Rely on God’s guidance, love God and love others, and live thankful for what we have been given. This is where true happiness and deep joy can permeate our existence!
Cathedrals Tenth Avenue North
Father, let Your kingdom come, Keep us from our lesser loves;
Nothing else can satisfy, Like the joy found in Your eyes.