“Are you happy today?”
One summer a 16-year-old neighbor asked me that same question every time she spotted me outdoors when she passed by our house. After awhile, she started coming to the door and ringing my bell just to ask me that question. I’m not sure if she really wanted to know or just enjoyed tormenting me, but somehow she had gotten the idea that Christians should always be happy.
Of course, I was a young mom at the time with a 5-year-old, a toddler and a baby, trying to make ends meet on a very tight budget. I was often frustrated – definitely not what my teenage friend would call happy.
Keeping up with piles of dirty laundry and cloth diapers with my little Hoover spinner washer was enough to get me down! But add to it unhealthy piles of perfectionism (always trying to be good enough), pride (trying to do everything myself without asking for help), and pain from childhood wounds which festered under the surface – well, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I definitely wasn’t happy or joyful. I know she saw right through me.
Still, every time she came around, I pasted on the fake smile and tried valiantly to convince her that even though I may not always have a smile on my face, I had the joy of Jesus in my heart. I breathed a sigh of relief when she moved away after that summer, but that didn’t stop the nagging question in my heart, “Are you happy today?”
For several more years God nagged at me with the same question, until I finally let him do some heart housekeeping to haul out the perfectionism, pride and pain. Through the healing process I learned I really can always be joyful – but not by hiding my inner struggles behind a fake smile.The joy I feel now comes from having a Friend who has seen my heart at its worst and loves me in spite of it; by learning to be transparent with him and trusting him to do the necessary inner healing work so that I might enjoy the abundant life he offers.
Thank you Lord for giving me a taste of truly joyful living. Amen.