Some evenings, my heart aches. It’s just a fact of life. Hearts beat, they bleed, they ache.
I ache for all that is wrong in me. The ways my-will rises and crashes within.
I surrendered it, you know. Years and years ago, under an ancient pine tree in North Port, Florida. I had been so angry, so livid, that God would ask me to give up what I wanted and accept-with-joy what He had for me. But I finally fell on my knees and gave up.
And then, little lessons, one after another. Friendships, plans, hopes, desires…
“Surrender,” He whispered in the damp, humid air. And I laid them down– built mini altars of faith. I knew the practice of faith in small things would prepare me for big things.
But how was I to know how big the things would become? And how was I to know that giving up my-will would mean surrendering my whole self?
I had no idea that I was embarking on a life-long journey toward learning to accept-with-joy.
He was six years old that summer. Red hair and freckles that danced across his nose. He was so good most of the time, rarely in need of correction. But that day he was on the edge, tight-rope walking the thin line of obedience.
When he fell from the line and stood before me, defiance overpowering, I sighed. “Do you have to fight?” I asked. “Can you just accept that there are boundaries you can’t cross?”
“I don’t like them,” he told me. “I don’t know why they’re needed. I’m old enough to take care of myself.”
Of course, at six he was old enough to run, jump, laugh, learn responsibility… but he was not old enough to establish his own boundaries. He wasn’t old enough to see everything else that was happening around him. He needed his parents to direct him, and when they weren’t available, he needed me.
How easy it is to see in a child. His defiance, the gripping to “his-will,” was robbing him of safety, stealing good things from his life.
How I longed to just wrap him tight and whisper, “Please, please, learn to accept-with-joy the things I give you. Even if they seem bad, trust me. Trust that I can see far more than you can right now.”
How easy it is to see in a child and how hard it is to see in me. When my two-handed grip to my-desires and my-will rob me of safety, stealing the good things from my life.
It turns out that I can’t see as far as I think. It turns out that I need to keep my heart in surrender to the One-Who-Sees-All-Things. The One who will lead and guide me, pulling me onward, and upward.
He asks me to accept-with-joy that my body can’t bear children. That my hopes need to be laid down at His feet and His-will must be glorified over my own.
And at one point, I thought “accepting-with-joy” meant “accepting-with-happiness” and Oh, how impossible that is. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it. Morning after morning I would wake up and say, “Today I’ll be happy. I’ll accept what God gives.” And morning after morning I would fail. My-will would rise up and my-desires would wage war and my flesh would rule. Happiness can’t stand in the face of crushed dreams.
But joy is different. It’s a choice.
And I’ll be honest: I’m not good at making it. I’m not good at choosing joy when my throat is crusty and dry from my years in the desert.
So I asked Him. I went right to His feet and I said, “God, how am I suppose to accept-with-joy when I’m barely surviving?”
The next morning I woke up and our hot water heater died. Dead. It was the middle of winter, when our finances are the tightest, and the only thing that came out of our faucets was an icy blast.
I was kneeling by the tub, washing my hair, my hands beet-red and numb, when I heard His answer.
“Accept this with joy.”
It wasn’t a lifetime of infertility that I was looking at. It was just a season without hot water. I could do that.
So I chose joy and searched out the beauty in the middle of a mini-trial. Like, heating huge kettles of water on the cookstove and watching the steam spin up into the air. Listening to the tea kettle whistle and drinking mugs of milky hot tea while washing dishes. Laughing at my husband’s speed-showers and smiling when he surprised me by heating enough hot water for me to take a bath.
Acceptance-with-Joy means embracing the bits of glory that show up in the desert. Bravely growing and living and breathing-life– on whatever little tastes of beauty you can find.
And you learn through practice.
Through choosing joy through the seasons without hot water, and choosing joy when there isn’t enough money, and choosing joy when you’re sick, and choosing joy when someone hurts you, and choosing joy when you want to mix up a batch of chocolate chip cookies but someone ate all the chocolate chips when you weren’t looking.
The pattern emerges. Choosing joy through little things, will teach you to choose joy in the big things. The life-changing, I-don’t-know-how-to-survive-this things.
Trust is learned through small steps. One day at a time. And then you grow and understand that your parents knew far more than you did, and God knows far more than we do– and the sooner we accept-with-joy, the easier it will be to survive.
Fighting the place that God has brought you to, will only leave you weak and vulnerable. Accepting-with-Joy? It will strengthen you, burying your roots down deep in the soil– as deep as you need to go to find life. And when storms come? They won’t do anything but ruffle your leaves.
“When you wear the weed of impatience in your heart instead of the flower Acceptance-with-Joy, you will always find your enemies get an advantage over you.”
― Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places