Every afternoon the hot and steamy or cold and frosty school bus, depending on the season, rolled through Green Valley transporting all of us elementary-aged, screaming meemies to our homes. Every day that big yellow shuttle screeched to a grinding halt on the busiest highway between Rainbow City and the not-so-big town of Lincoln to deposit my friend Joy. With the swing of a handle, doors separated releasing Joy at the end of her driveway. I don’t even remember Joy’s last name, but I remember that house. My children know that house too because every trip down that highway always brought forth my question, “Did you know my friend Joy lived in that house?” To which they always replied, “Yes, Mama, we know! You tell us that every time we come this way!” Sometimes it’s just fun to get even with your kids! (I also like to remind them of the traffic light on the way to Huntsville where I pulled the car over as they fought in the back seat. Suddenly a switch pulled out of nowhere got their attention. But, I digress.)
When I taught kids in Sunday school we learned that the letters J, O, Y gave us a great way to find true joy. J-O-Y stood for Jesus, others, and yourself. A life organized with those priorities in that order does indeed place an exuberant life on display. However, knowing that and being able to do it aren’t the same.
I’ve been praying for God to teach me how to be more joyful so that my life reflects just how amazing following Jesus really is – no matter the circumstances. What I’m just beginning to learn is that freedom is a process that begins with grace and leads us to deeper joy.
If I’ve read all the road signs properly I think I’ve passed through several towns on this journey. When I came to the metropolis of Grace, the bright lights enabled me to see God’s constant love and endless mercy in all its glory. I didn’t have to live in the shadow of my sin any longer. Basking in the glow of amazing Grace, I could courageously navigate on through the hilly terrain of Forgiveness. I don’t mind telling you, I had to check into a hotel and stay in Forgiveness a while until I dumped two shady hitchhikers called Failure and Hurt. But lately, I’ve been enjoying return visits to my favorite get-away city of Recognition. Whenever I go there I get to see God’s hand at work in my life and in the lives of those around me. The wonders there never cease to amaze me! It has become a retreat.
However, there is a nearby suburb called Suffering that I almost always have to pass through on my way to Recognition. It’s most definitely NOT on my Top Ten list, but I usually find something good there – if I look hard enough. The trip through Suffering threatens to wear me out with discouragement, but I remember all the times I’ve passed through there and left a much better person; then it doesn’t seem quite so bad. Most times, passing through Suffering nudges me toward a more relaxing visit in Recognition, but not always. I’m good with that because I know Who’s sitting in the driver’s seat beside me on our journey! He’s got everything under control.
I’m excited to tell you I’ve recently entered the most exciting city on this Perfection Road; it’s the mountain-top city of Joy. From the heights of Joy I can see the long and winding path that led me here. The view provides the exhilarating bliss of knowing the perfection of Jesus has filled all the potholes of my life along the way. I know my heart well enough to know that my ability to remain in Joy every single day may not be realistic yet, but I’m praying for the Spirit to fuel my tank and show me the way more often. I’ve learned He’s quite faithful and besides, I think He would really like for me to take up residence in this place. If you haven’t made it to Joy yet, remove your gas cap, yell “fill ‘er up!” and get out of the driver’s seat! You’re gonna enjoy the ride!
When my great-grandchildren come along I hope my grandkids can point to what God has done in their own lives and in the lives of their parents and say, “This is where joy lives!” And I am SO hoping those little darlin’s respond with, “Yes, we know! We see it all the time!”
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4, NIV