When joy is a dare.

I’m someone who probably wouldn’t make a New Year’s resolution simply because everyone else was making one, and I would be busy crafting an elaborate manifesto blog post on Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Dumb. But everyone wants change at the beginning of the year, whether we tell Facebook about it or not, and I’m one of them. Case in point: It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I have already saved $18 at Kroger, gone to the bank, mailed a bill, put super unleaded gas in my car (on accident), not blown up my car (as a result), written a reflection on my workshops, gotten the broken lightbulb issue fixed, and packed a healthy lunch. But none of this is what this year is shaping up to be (even though I feel remarkably energized what with all the crossing things off lists I have been doing). None of it means all that much beyond my bank account and my planner.

I read Shauna Niequist’s latest blog post yesterday. (Ever since I read Bread & Wine, by the way, she has become the writer and speaker I never knew I needed. Go read anything she’s written, people.) She writes about those Christmas gifts we never use because they’re too fancy and special, so even though they were chosen carefully for us out of love, they sit unused. But, of course, this isn’t all about the fancy perfume we use once a month and the candles gathering dust on a shelf.

If we claim Jesus, we know the ultimate gift given to us out of a bigger love than we’ll ever know. And that gift brings deeper, otherworldly joy to us in a way that isn’t optional. If we know Jesus, we know that it is a joy of rescue, a joy of answer and comfort and relief. And I want to start the year believing that even when I don’t feel it. Sometimes joy is a dare, isn’t it? We honor the One who gave everything to us when we choose joy like He chose love—and that was with sacrifice, with trust, sometimes with a leap, and always with hope.

And what are we to do with tangible joy? With tangible gifts? When the waiting is over? Too often, our response is to flee from it. Sometimes I can feel almost paralyzed by the inability to express gratitude fully. Nothing is enough for tangible gifts, especially those that come after a time of waiting. How many times have you withdrawn from a gift because, if you were honest with yourself, you would say you didn’t believe you should have received it. It’s a feeling of being an impostor—that small but clear voice whispering Surely not you. Surely someone else. But I believe we honor the One who gives all things by daring to be joyful when we feel it, too. By daring to experience it when we find it. By saying thank you and meaning it. By counting that as enough (because it is).

Shauna writes:

What would would it look like for you, this year, to burn your candles, to allow yourself to be as loved and worthy as the people around you believe you are? What are you hoarding away for another day, for someone else, someone more deserving or special or fancy? What have you been given that you won’t allow yourself to enjoy?

This year, I want to burn the candles I have been given. I don’t want to wade knee-deep in joy; I want to dive in. I want the fullness of it. I want to experience it when I feel it and when I don’t. I know I will find the One who defines joy in both kinds of moments.

Tomorrow, for a fancy date my dear planned for us, I’ll put on perfume I was given for Christmas from my grandmother. When I opened it, I saw a full glamorous bottle of the actual fragrance that was made in Paris. I don’t buy things made in Paris, y’all. I can’t even say its name. (In an it’s-in-French way, not a Perfume-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named way.) I had asked for a tiny amount of it from the non-official-perfume-warehouse-website. Cheaper, of course, and what my frugal self would buy.

But sometimes a gift is given, and it’s bigger than what you had in mind. I could easily let that perfume sit on a shelf for special occasions. I could deem it ultimately meant for someone else…or I could use it. Like burning a candle, it’ll take ages to use up, and that means days and days ahead of that lingering vanilla scent that takes me right back to the parfumerie in Chamonix where I first sprayed a sample of it onto a slim paper card. Days and days of the fullness of joy. So I’ll use it tomorrow.


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