Joyfulness as holiness

I’m reading Ortberg’s ‘The Life You’ve Always Wanted’ (amongst other things).  This one I am reading because we’re reading it in the church book club session next time.  I’ve read it before but it’s good to go over it.  Here’s a gem from this morning’s reading, a quotation from Chesterton:

children…want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony…It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

That last bit has been resonating in my heart all day.  The Father, I think, exults in every day.  Scripture says that he rejoices over us with singing.  How old have I become that I no longer dance in the street?  Why do I no longer laugh in public like I might when no one’s listening?  When did skipping along the pavement become a thing of the past?  (I know it happened a long time ago, but why?  And did it have to be that way?)

Since when did we make joy optional in the Christian life?  Ortberg writes,

the problem with people, according to Jesus, is not that we are too happy for God’s taste, but that we are not happy enough.

Hear my heart in this: I know what depression is.  I lived through four years of darkness.  And I was a Christian at the time.  So I understand that experience in a very personal way.

Still, I know that it is possible to be joyful even when your heart is exploding with the pain of loneliness, when you are dying inside and no one can see but you.  I know that I had reason for joy despite the ache of working in a job that was slowly destroying my sense of personhood.  Why?  Because in the end God is good and he loves us.

Ortberg points us to Nehemiah who called the people to a holy celebration.  This was not a day of fasting, of solemnity or of self-abasement.  No, it was to be a day of pure unbridled joy.  A day of eating the fat and drinking the sweet wine.  A day of sharing all of that goodness with those who had none.  Why?  Because ‘this day is holy to our Lord’.

Holiness requires joyfulness.  It’s part of the package.  We can learn it even when it seems impossible.  And as we start to eat the fat and drink the wine, let’s look for those with whom to share our joy.  Joyfulness is catching…and, though you’d think from the way we evangelicals live that we don’t know it,  joyfulness is part of holiness.

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