In January, we chose a word of the year: joy.
We chose "joy" because we felt that we were relatively accepting of the life we'd been given. We deeply desire a family and this year will be our fifth of waiting on that blessing. Over the past few years, we've struggled with a variety of issues relating to this and I think that in a sense we've become content with where we are in this journey. I really felt sort of mentally pushed toward the idea of being joyful in all circumstances, not just accepting them but receiving whatever hand we're dealt with a sense of thankfulness and peace that only comes from God.
The one thing I both love and hate about choosing a word like this to focus on is that it seems like that gets tested right away. Nearly immediately after the year began, it became difficult to choose joy. Something that sort of rocked the boat happened, and my commitment to being joyful plummeted and my worry and fear took over. It seemed natural and logical at the time, but in truth, I was saddened by how quickly my desire to live out this characteristic and word faded away when difficult things happened.
I was up thinking the other night about all of these things, and trying to make myself not worry while also making a mental list of more things to worry about, when Psalm 4:8 popped into my head: "In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for YOU ALONE, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." My immediate reaction to that verse was humility. There I was, thinking of more and more ways to worry my way into slumber, when I have Someone who is more than sufficient to take these worries upon Himself. It is a difficult surrender.
The other day I mentioned wanting to "pull the golden thread" to Carson, and he didn't know what I was talking about. It's a story I remember reading as a child in the Children's Book of Virtues (I remember so many of these little stories and was so glad to find a nicely used copy at a thrift store last summer). In the story, there is a young man who is frustrated by the time he's been waiting for something and so one day he happens upon an old woman who gives him a spool of golden thread with a warning: you can pull the thread to move ahead to events in life, but you can't put it back. So the boy pulls the thread to shorten his school days, his engagement, the difficult years when his children are young... and one day he looks over and realizes that he's an old man and has completely missed out on his entire life. He finds the old woman and asks her if there is a way to push some of the thread back into the ball so he could relive the parts that he missed. There is not of course, and he missed his whole life. It turns out that the whole thing was a dream, so when he wakes up, he gets to live that same life over but without any skips. (I found an adaptation of the story here, and the cartoon with the story I also remember from Adventures From the Book of Virtues on YouTube)
The waiting is hard, but worth it. I think sometimes if I had a golden thread, I'd like to pull it just so I could get to the "other side" of this, but maybe there isn't another side. Maybe there's more waiting, or more wondering, or something else that I' can't imagine. Either way, I feel pretty confident that the journey is going to be worth it in the end. And I'm very thankful to not have the temptation of skipping ahead.
Worry isn't something that is going away as a struggle of mine, it's sticking around for the long haul. It's going to be that thing that when I'm 90, I'm battling. But I don't want to get to 90, or 29 for that matter, and suddenly realize that all my life I've been holding on to being in control. I don't want to trudge through life looking for things to worry about and focusing on what I can't change. I'd love for my nights to be for sleep and not for worry, and to be thankful when things are hard and when they're good. I want to thank God for what He's given me and then surrender my fears to Him.
It's so hard. It sounds really easy and simple and I think that's what makes it so difficult. It's very easy to say things to myself like "Oh, but you have to plan ahead!" or "Oh, but I'm only googling this so I have peace of mind" and to turn to little things like that while slowly turning away from putting trust in God and confidence in His plan.
So, joy, thankfulness, trust. These are things that are a burden right now. They are the difficult surrender as I attempt to place my will in line with God's plan. When He says no and I want it to be yes, choosing joy is hard. When He says turn right and I'd like to go left, it's still not easy. I want the control. I want the knowledge. I want to pull the golden thread and zoom ahead to the good parts. But the joy is not just in the good. It is in the heart of the struggle, it is in the yoke of trusting God's plan. It is in the everyday of looking to the cross and running the race that is set before us.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7)