The Life and Death of Joy

The following scene has become pretty commonplace during playtime around here lately.

Shep ( 3 years old): Mom, come play trucks.

Me: Okay. What truck should I play with?

Shep: This truck. [He hands me his selection, I play for about 5 seconds, then he takes it back.]

Me: I thought that was my truck to play with?

Shep: No, you play THIS truck. [He hands me a different truck to play with and adds my old truck to his personal “stash.” I play with my new truck for about 5 seconds and then he takes it back.]

Me: You took my truck again. What am I going to play with now?

Shep: You play THIS truck. [He hands me yet another tuck to play with and adds my second truck to his stash. I play with my new truck for about 5 seconds and then – you guessed it – he takes it back and adds it to his stash.]

Me: Shepherd, do you want mommy to play trucks with you or not?

Shep: Yes. You play trucks wit me.

Me: Okay, then you need to give me a truck and let me keep it.

Shep: No, these my trucks, mom.

[Insert “the importance of sharing” lecture here.]

As Shepherd took the fourth or fifth truck from me the other day, I was struck by the fact that the scene being played out between me and my three year old is the same scene that plays out between me and the Lord on a regular basis.

I want Jesus to draw near to me. I want Him to interact with me. I want to feel His presence. I want to hear His voice. More than anything, I want to experience the abiding joy of walking with Him day by day.  To put it in the language of my three year old, I want Jesus to “come play trucks.”  There’s just nothing quite like the King of Kings and Lord of Lords stooping down into my little world and showing me glimpses of His glory in the various facets of my incredibly mundane life.  To me, that’s the substance of biblical joy. I crave it. I pray for it. I read books on how to get more of it.

And yet I’m torn.

You see, in order to “play trucks” with Jesus, you have to hand Him your stuff. In order to experience the fullness of His presence and drink deeply of His joy, you have to surrender what you treasure. In order to get those much-needed glimpses of His glory in the everyday “stuff” of life, you have to let go and give Him total control of what you hold dear.

You have to be able to say, “Whatever things were gain me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord” (Phil. 3:7, 8).

Jesus put it this way: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple . . . None of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his possessions” (Luke 14:26, 27, 33).

In these verses Jesus employs the method of exaggeration to make a really important point. He isn’t commanding us to feel hatred toward our family members and ourselves or to live on the streets without a dime to spare. What He’s saying is that our love for anything or anyone in this life ought to pale in comparison with our love for Him. Our love and commitment to Christ is to be so intense and all-consuming that every other affection in our hearts looks like hatred in comparison. Whoa.

Over and over again the gospels show us that when Jesus comes to “play”, He does so on His terms. And His terms include total, unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to His Lordship. In keeping with our metaphor, He gets all the trucks. And even though I know in my head that His hands are the very best place for my “trucks” to be, it sure is hard sometimes to loosen my grip.

Every time Shep asks me to play, he has to decide what he values most: The pleasure of maintaining possession of his stuff, or the even greater pleasure of playing with mom. The reality is, he wants both. But he can’t have both. He has to choose.

And so do we.

The indescribable, life-changing joy that comes from experiencing sweet fellowship with our Savior is a gift for those with open hands, willing hearts, and contrite spirits.

Selfishness is the death of that joy. It cannot live in a stingy heart. It cannot flow through an unrelinquished life.

The bigger your “stash,” the smaller your joy.

So let me ask you, what are you going to do with your trucks?

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