Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Slow Death of Joy

I read something kind of astounding today. It was not necessarily new information, in fact it was something I’d read countless times, but I’d never quite thought of it in this new way.

It was a daily devotional about Joy. The verse the author of the devotion was expounding on was “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21. We’ve all read this, we know it. It is right there after the verse about laying up your treasures in heaven and not on earth were they can be destroyed. I thought I was doing that. But what I read in this devotional smacked me right between the eyes.

Ellen Miller, the author of this devotional book, shares the story of her adult son being addicted to Meth and being missing off and on for years. Truly every mother’s worst nightmare. After telling the story of her son’s addiction she says...
“I share my story with you because, like many mothers, my treasure was my children. For many years, I drew my identity, creativity, and self worth from my children’s well-being. My dream of raising healthy, happy children was my energy source. But I’ve learned through this journey that this does not work; I can’t commit my sanity or insanity to my children. My joy must come from knowing that God’s agenda is greater than my own. Thus I reassign him to be my treasure by placing my trust in his promise of grace and mercy. Once I shifted my focus from me to him, I realized I could be joyful and strong regardless of this heartbreaking situation.”

I found this so interesting because for me, joy has been a little elusive of late. I have been trying to find it again. I made ‘joy’ my word for 2011. I was determined. There are many things in my life that are just not fun anymore. My kids are older and don’t want to play cards with me or watch AFV on Friday nights. Homeschooling the Jr. High and High School grades is just not very fun. It is a lot of work, really. My house is so very small and I am finding it quite difficult to function with all these teenagers in such a small house. My visions of working in the kitchen side by side with my daughters, teaching them how to cook and keep house has become a dismal joke in my ‘one butt kitchen’. Having all the boys’ friends over to hang out is a near impossibility considering we have room for 5 people to sit comfortably in our living room. This was not how it was supposed to be. We were not supposed to be still living in this tiny house when the kids got to be this age. This tiny house was a stop-over.

Even after 20 years with the same company, and moving up and up through the ranks, my husband still works very long hours. My college age son is making decisions that I think to be unwise, and yet there is not much I can do about it except watch. My 2nd, almost adult son is never home, and instead is working constantly. A good thing, I suppose, but not quite how I envisioned it. I am finding having teenage daughters a challenge. There are so many hormones flying around my house sometimes I wonder if it should be declared unfit for human inhabitance. Being a woman myself you’d think I’d comprehend what was going on in my daughters’ minds and be able to be understanding and helpful, but frankly, I’m at a loss. One daughter won’t speak except in monosyllabic responses, and the other won’t stop speaking so anyone else can get a word in edgewise. This is not how I thought it would be.

I have decided that idealism and unrealistic expectations are the death of joy. I have killed my own joy slowly over the years by hanging on to the unrealistic ‘Perfect Christian Homeschooling Family’ vision, made possible by my own idealism.

I like very much how Mrs. Miller ended her daily devotion; “Of course, reassigning your treasure may not be easy. My only helpful tip: it’s easier to let go of something once you recognize it wasn’t yours in the first place.”

So I guess I should now go about the process of reassigning my joy. I’m not sure what this process will look like or even how to go about it, really, but I know I’ve got to try. You hear of so many amazing Christian people who have been through unparalleled adversity talking about having joy despite their circumstances. How did they do it? My husband is gone too much, my house is too small and my teenagers are driving me batty. I’ve let this kill my joy? What a wimp I am. The greats of the faith like Corrie Ten Boom, Detrick Bonhoffer , and Mother Theresa, must be shaking their heads in heaven at my milquetoast disposition.

They say the first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem, right?


JasonBecca said...

wow - love it! Thank you for your honesty - definitely food for thought!

Cindy said...

Great post, Tricia. I really needed to read that. Thank you, also, for your honesty.