Lately, there have been two would-be thieves knocking on the door of my heart.
Their target: my Joy.
Their names: Past and Future.
These guys like to work together, you know. Past sneaks around the back door, reminding me of how great yesteryear was and how those days are over and all I have left is a memory, twisting my heart until I just want to cry, “Please take me back! I just want to live that again!” Meanwhile, Future stands just out of reach, out the front door, beckoning, “If you could only get to me, everything will be better than ever before! You have no idea how great life will be–nothing like that crummy Now you’re forced to endure day after endless day.”
These days, Past is having a wonderful time with Lydia’s upcoming birthday. Hardly an hour goes by without that little voice in my head whispering, “The baby days are almost over. Remember how much you loved holding your tiny babies, nursing them and snuggling them? It’s almost over. You’re not going to get to do that again, you know.” Every friend that announces their new pregnancy is another opportunity for Past to take a jab: “Remember when that was you? Remember how much you thrilled in being pregnant and feeling those babies growing and kicking inside you? No more for you. Those days are over now.”
Every first birthday is bittersweet–excited for how that baby is growing and developing and learning, but wistful, remembering those sweet infant days that are over too soon. But most of the other first birthdays at our house were quickly followed by (or accompanied by) the announcement of the next new arrival, taking most of the bitter out. Not this one. This is our last first birthday. And while I am turned around backwards, my face pressed up to the glass, staring at the picture Past painted of what will never be again, Past sneaks right back out with Joy under his arm.
Then there’s Future. Oh, what a joy-robber he can be. His tactics right now have nothing to do with Past’s plan of action. He’s not using the baby/family playbook. He’s using the process of searching for the next chapter of Clay’s ministry. “Imagine how great it will be when God finally opens that door. Then at last things will be good. Right Now has you stuck. If you could just get to me, everything will be peachy.”
What a sneaky dude, that guy Future. It’s so fun to dream about him. But dreaming can be dangerous. As tempting as it is, I can’t live in a dream. Now doesn’t go away just because I wish Future would hurry up. And when the dream-fog clears and I remember that I live in Now and not in Future, I look around, searching for Joy and realize that Future stole her away again.
It’s often hard to withstand the onslaught. Past and Future fire their artillery relentlessly. It’s so easy to just lie down and surrender to them, and walk through the days of Now defeated and bitter over what has been and what isn’t yet.
But here’s the secret: Joy is hidden in the Now! If I just start searching for her, I realize that those wily bad guys can never steal her completely! When I look at that healthy, beautiful almost-one-year-old, I find Joy in her crinkle-nose grin and in the way her face lights up when she sees me. When I think about where God has us right now, I find Joy in the friends in our church family who pray for us and love us. I find Joy in those teenagers who look rough and talk rough and who aren’t often welcomed by the church as a whole, but who keep coming Wednesday after Wednesday because they know Clay cares about them, and I find Joy in the fact that when they come, the Gospel is being planted in their hearts.
When I drag myself away from the back door of a yesterday that’s over and away from the front door of a tomorrow that isn’t even promised, I find Joy inside the rest of my house of Now. There is Joy in those never-ending giggles. Joy in the strong arms of my husband’s hug when he gets home every evening. Joy in the rattling of Legos. Joy in the scratching of pencil on paper and the furrowed brow of a math-concentration-face. Joy in the triumphant grin of a girl who just climbed the rope faster than a boy. Joy in a potty-trained toddler. Joy in a dinner table overflowing with food and people and conversation. Joy in kids who sleep all night. Joy in talks about grace and Christ. Joy in crackling fires and blankets and snuggles. Joy in ponytails and plastic jewelry. Joy in superhero capes and wooden swords. Joy Ultimate in the arms of Christ who is Himself the source of all true Joy.
Past and Future are not enemies as long as they stay in their rightful places. But when they start creeping around the outside of my house again, all I have to do is slam the doors against their schemes, turn around, and look at my Now.
Because Now is where the Joy is.