I remember when I liked deer.
They were graceful. And pretty. And reminded me of Bambi.
Now I think of deer as rats with long legs.
When we moved out from the city 12 years ago I loved the view of deer grazing in the field. But as I tried to landscape my yard my opinion of deer fell considerably.
If you plant it, they will come. And eat it.
Saturday we had a wedding shower at our house and I put out flowers on the front porch. I knew I couldn't leave them there overnight; I knew from years of experience that putting flowers on the porch was like building a deer salad bar. But I was lulled by the beauty of the flowers, and that they were RIGHT next to the house, and that they were with Lantana, which is one of the few plants deer don't like. Maybe they were safe?
Silly me. This morning I came out to flowers eaten to the nubs.
As I stood there seething and cursing all deer everywhere I heard my Lord ask, "What are you allowing to eat and steal your joy?"
Wait a minute. This is about the deer. How did it become about me? But I realized, that remnant of a flower was a perfect picture of my joy. Not dead exactly, but certainly not flourishing.
"Alright Lord. I look like that sad flower right now. Please show me what I have allowed to eat me down to nubs."
And amazingly enough, He did.
What Is Stealing My Joy
- Unrealistic Expectations
Life has been crazy this year. The busyness that has accompanied the craziness has meant many tasks have gone undone. I have the unrealistic expectation that I can get the same amount of "normal stuff" done WHILE doing all the extra. Did I think I was suddenly going to have more than 24 hours a day? Or that I would no longer need to sleep?
Getting back my joy: I must trust God with the tasks He allows in the time allotted. If there is not time to keep my garage from looking like an episode of "Hoarders" right now, then I can wait for when I have the time to clean it and quit beating myself up.
And then I need to have a little funeral for ALL expectations- even reasonable ones. If I have no expectations I will eliminate most disappointment, and make more room for joy to come in.
- Other people
I cannot control other people. I cannot control their actions, their reactions, their choices, or anything else that is beyond my volition. I can love others and extend grace, kindness, and gratefulness, but I cannot control them. And if I try, all I will accomplish is a broken relationship.
Getting back my joy: I must leave others in God's hands. He is sufficient. He is able. And He loves them more than I ever could. If every time I am frustrated by others I pray for them instead of trying to change them, I release God to work in their lives and I release the false sense of control and responsibility I am feeling. And I am freed up to be filled with joy.
- Not enough sleep, poor eating, and no exercise.
Not taking the time to sleep, eat well, and exercise is really a sign that I think that my work is so important and necessary that I need to neglect myself in order to get it all done. God complex much? God designed me to need rest and nourishment. He designed my body to respond in a positive chemical way to exercise (like endorphins that are released during physical activity.) He doesn't need me to take poor care of myself to prove how much I love Him. If I am too busy to do these things, then I am too busy.
Getting back my joy: First, trust God with "To Do's". And then second, take a run, take a nap, and eat a nourishing meal. Every day. I can't decide if this is the easiest or the hardest item to get my joy back. But it is definitely straight forward. As I take care of the physical needs God placed in my body I open the gateway to my spirit to be filled with God's joy.
The Joy of The Lord
Nehemiah 8:10 says: "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (NASB)
While all of the above actions are necessary for me, I must never lose sight that ultimately it is the joy of the Lord that is my strength. It is supernatural. The Lord's joy sustains, revives, overflows, and never runs out.
I will run out of joy again. I will probably turn around in a few weeks and realize I look like a plant eaten by evil deer down to the nubs. And when I do, I must turn around and run back to the Lord to be refilled with His joy.
And then I will probably eat a salad and take a nap.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7 (NIV)