One day last week someone posted on facebook what they felt the Lord was asking them to do with this new year. I thought about what might be a word or a phrase that could sum up what I wanted this year to be. I had been scrolling through my pictures on facebook earlier that day and I was struck by the joy in all the different photos of me. I was brimming with joy and it was beautiful. But social media is only a glimpse of my life and glimpse of the good stuff. I want to be joyful always. I the joy and the light of Christ to radiate through me. A bible verse that had been coming up A LOT in my prayer in the final weeks of 2015 was Find your delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps 34). As I saw these two come together I quickly decided that this year would be a year I wanted to rejoice always, to be overflowing with joy.
Something important to know about me, as we dive into this year of JOY – I have some anxiety issues. Actually, the majority of this Christmas break was filled with anxiety, panic attacks – hyperventilating and all, fear, etc. I was a mess. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t really eat. I was filled with anxiety for weeks. Being with people was the hardest thing, but I’m an extrovert, being with people usually exhilarates me. This time is exhausted me because being with people meant I had to feel something. When I was home alone I could lock myself away in my room and numb myself with netflix.
This week I decided I’d been feeling this way long enough and it was time to do something. I know that when I exercise that usually helps me sleep better, so I went for a run. Actually, I ran three times this week. My second run of the week I did a lot of processing. I realized that a lot of my anxiety was caused by feeling inadequate and unqualified to even bother applying for the summer programs I’m applying to. I mean, I have to write an essay to prove myself, and I’ve never had to do that. I already struggle enough to believe I’m good and to have true confidence in myself, how am I supposed to write an essay that would reflect I’m capable and confidant??
My second realization was correctly naming my emotions. My mom and I have butted heads since I was a teenager in high school. There’s a long history that I don’t want to explain but what you need to know is sometimes when I go home everything is fine and sometimes when I go home it’s miserable. This Christmas break, both times I went home were a little rough. The day I got back from my first trip home I was shaking all day because my anxiety was so high. Anyway, what I realized was that I was angry. I was angry because I felt like my mom didn’t know who I was and wasn’t doing anything to try to know me better.
These two realizations lead me to experience so much peace. Simply naming what was going on internally allowed me to experience peace because knowing what the issue is gives direction for the next step.
So with all this anxiety, fear, doubt, anger, etc I’m not doing too hot on this being joyful goal, right. And I recognized that. I started taking this to the Lord today, but I also was still processing yesterday’s realizations. So I decided to go to Generations (the local Catholic bookstore) and walk around. I was hoping to find a book that jumped out at me screaming JOY. Some practical self-help book about being joyful.. I spent an hour perusing the store and came out with nothing.
When I got home I decided to go for a run. It was rather warm here today and I want to keep exercising regularly so for a run I went. And I started thinking about this joy situation. What do I want this joy to look like? How do I get there? How can I be joyful when I feel every emotion so fully? How can I be joyful when I often feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders? Gratitude, yeah people have told me a thousand times over that gratitude is the key to joy, gratitude is the key to recognizing the gifts of God among us, but I ALREADY practice gratitude!! Gratitude is one of my soapboxes, but I want to do more, to be more joyful.
I want to have a deeply rooted joy. A joy that is not disturbed by the brokenness of the world, the brokenness of my heart, the stress of school. Deeply rooted is the key phrase there. If I want this deeply rooted joy, then I need to be deeply rooted in Christ. I need to choose to live out the teaching of God well. I need to love God and neighbor before myself. I need to be more generous with my time and my talents. I need to lean more into the Lord, to rely less on myself.
If you notice, the questions I asked myself were what can I do … There are two things wrong with those questions: 1. I… I can’t do anything, it is all by the grace of God, and His Spirit working within me, I of myself, can do nothing to create this deep joy, to make it happen. 2. DO…. we live in a world of doing, but we need to do more being. Be present, be still, be willing. If you learn to just be, especially to be with the Lord, then there is peace, then there is joy. Granted, there are things you can do – for example, go to adoration or mass regularly but instead of taking prayer supplies just take yourself and be with the Lord or instead of actively praying and reading before mass just sit there and be present to the Lord for he works in the silence of the heart.
When we choose to rest with the Lord and strive to live out his commandments well, then we become deeply rooted in him and by being deeply rooted in the Lord, a radical joy will begin to shine forth.
So I don’t know what ways you want to grow this year, or where you’re at with the Lord, but wherever you are and whatever you are doing remember the best thing we can do is to spend more time with the Lord, allowing him to speak into the silence of our hearts.
“Stop trying to be holy, and let the Lord make you holy” -unknown