34 is the New Black

The sun has rotated around the earth 34 times since I have been alive. (Galileo, who?)
I have officially outlived the incarnational version of Jesus Christ.
But I have not accomplished nearly what he did in 3 years. But that’s not a fair comparison. He’s God after all. And well, it’s been proven that I am not.

Last year, as I was getting ready to write the (obligatory) post of turning 33, fear was all I could think about.
As I’m writing this (and at the time of writing this, I still have a few good days left of being 33), joy comes to mind:
the lack of joy in seasons of my life this year;
the need to be joyful and the constant reminder I get of that from our foster son.

A lot has happened this year.
We got a new car.
And of course, our foster son came into our lives.

I’ve also felt frustrations that I’ve never felt before. I’ve been tired and bored like I’ve never been before. I also never have stayed in a church this longeither. So there’s been a lot of “new” things that I’ve experienced.

It’s scary just how easy it is to forget to be joyful and thankful.

You can spend so much time being frustrated, annoyed, angry and so forth that it really does begin to consume your soul. You become obsessed with it. You can’t think about anything else but to fix this situation; to eliminate the problem or the “thorn in your side” one way or another. And you dig yourself deeper into this hole that is void of joy and… life.

One of my biggest wake up moments professionally — and the decision that led me to leave the Korean church for the time being — was a conversation with a senior pastor of mine. He claimed that we (as clergy) were to live a joyless life because ministry isn’t supposed to be fun. We are serving and sacrificing — and to chase joy is not our calling. Joy is a side-effect. If joy is not there, you still grit your teeth and move forward.
I didn’t know how else to disagree with him but unfairly associating his thoughts with all Korean churches and leaving the Korean church altogether.

But, this year, I kinda see that he had somewhat of a point. Not that ministry is joyless — but that if we’re not careful, it can sap the joy out of us. Quickly.

And I think, it all depends on who we are ultimately serving.

Just because you’re a pastor doesn’t mean you’re serving God at your church.

We could be chasing to please and serve the long-time matron/patron or the biggest giver of the church.
We could be chasing to please and serve ourselves — making sure that through it all we are the biggest benefactors of our work.
Or, we could be chasing after God’s heart. And at times, this last one is the most difficult one.

Just the daily grind of the demands of ministry can take your focus off of serving God.

It’s easy to get lost in work, work, work; meetings after meetings; sermon prep after sermon prep. And it’s easy to dig yourself into a rut. We may end up just going through the motions of being a pastor. But our hearts and our minds are elsewhere. Drifting further and further away from our calling.

The biggest blessing in my life has been a wake up call in the form of a now 4 year old giant of a boy.
He exudes joy.
It’s so tiring.
But it’s so contagious.

How he finds joy in a new pair of pajamas is so foreign to me. It’s a onsie. You sleep in it. But he gets so giggly when he puts it on. And he’s so excited, he’s drooled all over me. Much like how Mary washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, this Kid washed my hair with his drool.

Or how he finds joy in riding a bus. When his school bus pulls up to the drive way, you’ll swear that he’s a One Directioner and he just saw One Direction walking up his drive way. So much squealing. So much laughter. So much joy. Though I instantly regret admitting to the fact I know who One Direction is (are?). AND, that I know what their fans call themselves.

From this point on, whenever I read Paul’s words of “Rejoice always,” this little kid will always pop up into my mind. And I hope that he will be this joyful for the remainder of his life. I hope the world doesn’t drive it out of him as it is wont to do.

I need to be more joy-filled. Not be more happy — but joyous. I need to have joy overflow from my heart. And in order for this to happen, I need to lean into God’s grace and promise of assurance rather than depending on my own strength and lean on my own (limited) accomplishments.

This year, I think the key scripture for me will be:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7)

Happy birthday to me!
May I spend my 34th year on this earth more attuned and aware to just how beautiful the world is and how great God truly is.
May my heart (and yours) be filled with joy!

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