My word for the week is joy. This is not a typical practice. Instigated by a noticable lack thereof last week, my husband and I have prodded each other towards deliberate joy. As my daughter so astutely pointed out, joy goes a step further than happiness because it can pervade despite circumstances. (She may have worded it differently.)
In the book of James we are encouraged to “consider it pure joy my brothers (and sisters) when you encounter various trails, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-4) While I know this verse by heart because of a cheesy song I learned in my junior high youth group along with the vivid dance that accompanied it, I find it much easier to sing than to live into.
On a related note, I have been working on my running for the past 4 weeks. With the snow nearly melted now, it’s the season to cast off the Sorels and slip into the crazy looking Hoka’s that keep my feet happy. I have been using an app on my phone that gets me back into the swing of things so that I don’t get discouraged after my first attempt to run a straight 30 minutes. The first week was great: 3 minute runs and 2 minute walks, with a few periodic sprints. Week 4, however, is less walking and more running. More like 3:30 run, 30 second sprint, 3:00 run, 15 second sprint, with a mere 1 minute to walk. It is harder each time, but always doable.
I am learning endurance on both fronts – physical and spiritual. When I am running, I have a choice about whether to follow the instructions of my virtual coach or to blow her off. (She has a very encouraging, sweet tone to her voice.) When I follow the instructions, I will undoubtedly improve. Already my pace is speeding up a bit, and my body feels stronger. The same potential is there for me as I go about my daily life, choosing to live into the call to joy. Joy is like that coach in my ears, telling me to sprint for 15 seconds. It is the tougher choice to pick up the pace after finding my comfortable running stride, but those are the moments that lead to strength. This week I am trying to be cognizant of those situations that have the potential to bring me down and invite the voice to joy into those places. Practically, it looks like this: “Lord – show me joy, or give me joy, or help me be joy.”
Today I am thankful for the metaphor of the running app and the tangible reminder to seek after joy with tenacity. Endurance doesn’t come if I never hit the pavement. Spiritual grit doesn’t come without the choice to let joy into all the ups and downs of daily life.
Hebrews 12:1 – “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”