Friday, November 28, 2014

Confetti Joy

I admit it; I was surprised by the confetti. My mouth gaped open, there was a sudden intake of breath. And then I smiled. I wasn’t expecting anything fancy for a $20 concert, even though it was one of my favorite bands. I loved it all. I loved the concert. I loved the confetti.

After my initial happiness at the fluttering colors, I began to think of how foolish it was to like bits of paper flying around in the air and how someone was just going to have to clean it up later. But then I realized how stuffy and cynical I sounded. Why can’t I just take joy in the beauty I’ve been given? Something that was meant to give me pleasure, did. And here I am complaining about it in my head.

The next day I was cycling through my thoughts about confetti and staring out my back window. It was a frivolous blizzard of yellow leaves. They were stunning in the sunshine.  And then it hit me. God also likes confetti; after all, he invented it! And we, all superior and grown up, instead of taking a child’s joy in them complain about how much work it is to rake them up.

So many things in life are like this. I spent a good bit of time convincing one of the 1st grade boys in our after-school tutoring program that participating in the activities was going to take some hard work but that it would be worth it in the end. He would learn and he would probably have some fun too. Take joy in the work.

It’s the same thing I tell people when I try to get them involved in volunteering and working with refugees and other internationals. It’s not easy. It takes a significant amount of work to become friends with a person who barely speaks your language. When cultural differences cause confusion, you can feel lost and idiotic. But it’s all worth it. The joy, the friendships, seeing God’s stories in the lives of people very different from you, seeing God work in your own life through it all, all these things are incredibly beautiful and valuable.
Sure, you may have to start with a bit of death like the trees do, a bit of choosing the hard thing over the temporary thrills of the moment, deciding to turn yellow at the edges. You may have to become open and bare and vulnerable to the elements and break free of the shell of your comfortable living. You might have to say “Hello” to a Muslim, or a Mexican, or your next-door neighbor. And then they may want something from you: your attention, your love, your service. Sacrifice your perceived safety on the altar of God’s call to the world. And then joy in what God adds to your life, the confetti colors of his creation, the overabundance of leaves and laughter.
Join me in this Isaiah path to joy.
...if you pour yourself out for the hungry
   and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.