Here it is, 2015.
I thought about making some new years resolutions, but I am not really good with those. I work better with general aspirations rather than specifically timed goals. So last year I tried something new, I chose a “theme” for my year. Last year, my theme was “thrive”. I was in the midst of some crazy depressing stuff and the transient city life was bearing down on me. I thought about how, although I had figured out how to survive in this city, I wasn’t sure if I had ever figured out how to thrive in this city. Focusing on learning how to thrive sounded like a good idea, and it actually was. I can actually say that this year proved to be a fruitful one in terms of personal growth and I feel really good about that.
So now that it is a new year, I figured it is time for a new word. A few weeks ago I was writing about joy as that was the weeks’ theme for advent and the word stuck with me. I was thinking about how sometimes I fail at being joyful because I am always looking for this “big ticket” items to fill me up joy wise. But joy has to be deeper than just amazing things happening to you. Its a way of life, really. A means of opening your eyes up to all of the everyday blessings, to root yourself in the true meaning of your existence, to see beyond your circumstances, good or bad. And as I mentioned before, I think I have gotten myself out of the “habit” of a joyful existence. I want the kind of inside existence that allows me to remain joyful even when circumstances are rough. So this will be my goal this year: Joy.
On New Years day, to start my new year, my roommate and I went on a bike ride to a less build up part of town the locals call “The green lung of Bangkok.” Its an island of sorts in the middle of the river that has beautiful greenery and trails all over for bike riding. It was literally a breath of fresh air. And as I rode around taking it all in, I felt truly blessed to be in this city. Bangkok can be a rough place to live. It’s crowded, hot, polluted, full of terrible smells, and people coming in and out of your life. Most people, after spending a day hitting the tourists spots, find that they don’t really like Bangkok at all. But I love this place in “a face only a mother could love” kind of way, as I heard someone put it once.
It can be rough living, but Bangkok has so many hidden gems that that I am constantly in awe of it. Riding back into the city on a ferry that cost 4 baht (less than 10 cents) as the sun was setting, making the river glow in the cooler than normal weather, I felt like Bangkok was wooing me. It got me in such a state of mind that when I had to address the potentially annoying trek home via multiple forms of transportation into the depths of city congestion, I felt like I was still glowing inside
That is what I want. I want the reality of who I am in God and the realizations of his everyday blessings to be so ingrained in me that crappy things don’t phase me so much.
Last night at the church I attend, the speaker was addressing joy. He said, that although he can’t explain it, when we choose joy, make the conscious effort to proclaim God’d joy over our lives, it has actual power. He quoted Psalm 22:3 that talks about how God inhabits the praises of his people. I love that. In God, we have this unexplainable power to stay joyful, even when circumstances try to overwhelm us.
Too often, I let bitterness win out. It is something I learned to do, I think, as a coping mechanism of sorts. Let me explain. Most of the time, when pain or disappointment is addressed from the pulpit in the church, it goes something like this: “This really difficult thing happened to me, and it really hurt, and I got mad, even mad at God, and I grew bitter. But then, I eventually got want I wanted, better than what I wanted, and now I understand why that crappy thing happened, so I could get this better thing and grow from the hard thing…”
But what happens when you don’t actually ever get what you want, or even some semblance of it? What happens when you watch the chance at dreams pass by, and face the reality that you may never get what you want? In the face of such things, I am often told, just keep waiting, God knows your desires, don’t give up hope. I am quoted stories from the Bible like Sarah who thought she was barren but then got pregnant at an old age, same with Elizabeth. Joseph had to wait 3 years in prison before he was released, the Israelites had to wait 40 years before entering the promised land.
But what about the stories of people who never got what they wanted? Moses wandered around the dessert for 40 years with the Israelites, and then didn’t get to enter the promised land. David was excited off his rocker to be the one to be able to rebuild the temple, but died before he could. Poor Jeremiah never even wanted to be a prophet and then, after years of persecution, never got to see the fruit of all of his prophesying. Some people never get what they want. This is a real thing, and choosing joy in these situations, this is a harder battle. And this this the challenge I want to take on. Not just choosing joy because things are working out the way I want them, and not just choosing joy because of the hope they might some day, but choosing joy in the face of the reality things may never be as I hope. Choosing joy when all seems not worth it. Choosing joy because I am engulfed in the love of God and I can’t see around it.
So joy, 2015.