July 19

Purpose:  Experiencing the reality of God’s joy

       When I was a boy I thought God was really old, and always mad at somebody.  I thought God was unhappy with me most of the time, and probably never smiled.  I had no idea that God was actually joyful and smiled a lot.

       I suppose I picked up this message about God being unhappy from my own unhappy childhood.  It’s not that I was terribly abused or neglected; it was all the rules.  I felt unhappy about keeping this long list of rules, my parents were unhappy because they had to enforce them, and therefore God was unhappy with all of us.

       We all deserved to go to Hell.  I hated to think what that place was like, but I didn’t want to have to go there.  I realized in later years that “Hell” was a deterrent for bad behavior.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure what was worse:  The sadness and remorse of Hell, or the unhappiness of Heaven.

       Heaven was a place where we were either sitting around a table eating a big meal, or we were sitting around the throne of God playing harps (with sticky fingers from all our eating).  There didn’t seem to be a good reason to want to be there except that Hell was really hot – and I knew what a burn on the skin felt like.

       This had an effect on my attitude toward life.  There didn’t seem to be much in store for me in the years ahead so I decided it was probably best to remain a child, or at least somewhere between a child and an adult.  (It’s funny how I was able to create another stage in life for myself even though I had no name for it.)

       The closest thing I could find to joy was sexual desire.  And my creation of a boy-man knew only privilege without the responsibility.  And thus a sexual addiction was born, quite by accident (the child) but also on purpose (the adult). 

       The child wanted to remain unaware of any responsibility.  After all, there were no options in life to be truly happy.  Just rules that made you good, but unhappy.  The only joy in life was linked to bad behavior worthy of Hell-fire!  The child just wanted to be happy.  But the child was an adult now.  Joy and happiness was out there somewhere, found in a place that no one could know about.

       It was through the 12-Step program and getting sober that I grew more familiar with my own needs.  And I grew to understand what joy is.  Joy isn’t about making rules, or getting punishment for not keeping them.  It’s about knowing what your purpose is in life.  Knowing God’s will in the universe, and following after God’s will for my life was the beginning of joy. 

       Joy is understanding that happiness is a choice, that it can be created just like unhappiness was for so many years.  There is joy in knowing that I am responsible for my happiness – no one else.  The joy is in the doing.  It’s what follows the choice to be happy.  If you choose to be happy, that’s an attitude; and this attitude of gratitude will spill over into your doing. 

       There is something very joyful about the universe.  God’s creation has a certain beauty that can only be described as joyful.  It is God’s handiwork that He/She has declared as “good” and perfect.  This joy is present even though you aren’t aware of it. 

       But as you become aware of God’s joy you are then able to practice this joy in your daily lives.  You can learn to participate in the will of God.  You have that right, and you are free to make the choice: “Will I participate in the will of God or will I resist, and choose not to?”  But remember, you have free choice, not free will.

       When I surrendered to the wind (as I was learning to wind surf out on the lake) I began to harness the power of the wind.  It was a joyful moment when I stopped resisting the wind and started to surrender to it.  By cooperating with Mother Nature I felt the strength of the wind supporting me, not fighting me.

       Surrender to God’s will and choosing to follow God’s plan you will know God’s strength in your life.  And having this purpose in life will allow you to know God’s joy.  The lone ranger does not know the joy of playing on a team.  There’s a synergy that you can experience when you cooperate with God and become an active participant in life.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Purpose:  Following God’s direction