A birthday gift for Jesus

We were spending time in front of the Christmas tree a few nights ago with the kids, and we asked them what gift Jesus would like from them for his birthday.   You can picture three cherubs, calmly reposing with quiet meditation written across their faces.   But that would be a Hallmark card and not my life.  Emma was sprawled across Mike’s lap keeping up a long stream of meaningless chatter, Stewart was hopping from couch cushion to couch cushion, Bennett was rolling on the ground at my feet, complaining about how bored he was while Mike and I punctuated the cacophony with our cajoling and commanding, adding to the general chaos.  Not what I had in mind when I initiated the family time.  Oh well.

The hilarious and surprising thing is what came out of it.  The kids actually had some good things to share, which proves that they can multi-task after all.  Haha.  But perhaps the most surprising thing was what I heard for myself.  The Lord told me that what he wanted from me as his birthday gift was joy.  That may be like “duh!” to you all who generally engage in Christmas cheer and so on.  I suppose it’s in tons of Christmas carols, “Joy to the World,” etc.  But in these songs, Jesus is the giver, and we are the receivers.  On another level, it was surprising to me, because I don’t usually think that much about joy, at least in terms of a character quality or emotion that I need more of.  Usually, I am desperate for peace, which is natural coming from a high control, high anxiety over-achiever.

I was puzzled over Jesus’ request.  How do I give joy to Jesus?  What does this mean?  So I did what every well-educated person does when they have a question about meaning.  I looked it up in the dictionary! Merriam-Webster says joy is “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”  Fat lot of help that was!  M-W failed me, I thought.  But I paused and mulled it over.  Because the truth is that being joyful in this time would be pretty significant for me.  Christmas aside, the state of my life is c-h-a-o-s.  My house is a wreck with boxes piling up near the ceiling and an empty fridge and pantry, which I always find demoralizing.  Homeschooling has been inconsistent and on-the-go (meaning that as I’m packing or crossing off other countless to-dos, I yell over my shoulder for the boys to get their work done–not a proud parenting moment).  I feel like an emotional broker of good-byes working through a constant exchange of farewells.  “This may be the last time I get ice cream at this Baskin-Robbins.  This could be my last visit to Cafe Borrone of sticky bun fame.”  And then of course the more meaningful exchanges with good friends and loved ones.

I don’t feel depressed or harassed.  I think I’ve gone through the sharpest bout of grieving already.  Still, I don’t feel particularly emotional one way or the other.  I feel more shut down than anything.  Like getting through what needs to be done to get to where I need to be, if you know what I mean.  And this is usually how I live my life in these intense times of transition.  But that doesn’t sound very joyful, does it?  To actually enjoy, i.e., be “in joy” in this time would be fairly radical for me.  It would require that I sit and savor each moment instead of just trying to get through them.  It would require that I remain emotionally present even letting myself feel sad again–sadness mingled with joy.

There is much to celebrate in this time–much “well-being, success or good fortune.”  So many people love us, which constantly amazes and humbles me.  Many have gone before us, pointing the way to glory and whispering encouragement and warning.  Many also travel behind us, watching and waiting for their time and reminding us that it’s all worth it.  And perhaps most importantly, many walk with us, choosing to journey with us, sharing the load and keeping us company on the long road ahead.

And Jesus walks with us too.  A constant companion.  And as strange as this may sound, I think this is why Jesus wants joy as a gift from me–because he is with me.  And if I enjoy this time, then he enjoys it too.  We live “in joy” together.  And joy overcomes the chaos, putting the flotsam and jetsam of my life in perspective.  Peace, joy, blessedness reign.

I hope you like your birthday gift, Jesus.  I definitely do.

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