I am undone.
It’s 4 o’clock on a Wednesday in a place that strangely feels like home, and I’m finally settling into my own skin again. The preceding week has been an adventure in abandonment, and I’ve found myself in a reflective mood lost over most of the past few days. The dark and light of the days have blended into a sort of menagerie of sights and smells as I travel farther from the earthly joys of my life. Earthly joy – isn’t that a kind of false joy? I would answer yes and no all at once and as you’re left scratching your head I would smile and begin in earnest to explain a small revelation that God has allowed me to glimpse in my journey to war.
Our lives at any given moment are filled with joys and sorrows, all working together for a divine purpose. I’ll leave sorrow for another day and focus on what I believe to be the two types of joy that God allows us to experience in our lives, earthly and eternal. I believe God gives both sorts in measure for purposes all His own, using them to draw us to Himself. Now let’s be clear for a moment about joy of any sort. Joy is not an ice-cream cone on a Tuesday afternoon – that’s fleeting, that’s happiness.
Joy is the two-year-old that has chocolate ice-cream smeared from ear to ear in a smile that breaks you.
Joy is the gentle breeze that smells of pine and freshly cut grass as you dream dreams in the quietness of your own back yard.
Joy is the embrace of your wife in a lingering kiss as you head out the door to face the woes of the world.
My earthly joys are undone. I watched them evaporate as water from a bowl. One day they will return to me and even now they are buried deep within but they are turned to memories fading. As time entropies all things, so too are earthly joys, deep parts of who we are – gone with the passage of time. Given enough time away from earthly joy and they turn to sorrow or worse bitterness if not given to Christ who holds all things secure.
It was almost surreal as it happened, from a quiet moment I shared with my son, as we shed tears together, to the kiss goodbye from a woman who yearns for me as I for her, the joy begins to fade.
The car ride to base took the edge from the last good-byes and only when I dwell there can I touch those feeling again in quickly fading memories.
The bus trip to our flight surrounded with a hundred such lives of men all like my own, and the feeling of loss grows.
Watching the sunrise over a foreign shore as I stare blankly out of a window high above the clouds and my mind turns inward watching the change within as it gives up, gives in, gives away the expectations that come with earthly joy.
Stepping into the heat blast on rocky ground on the other-side of the world and the reflective nature of what is occurring begins to fade.
I am undone.
I’ve realized over the few days that have passed since I’ve arrived here that there is intentionality in this, more than a man going to war and experiencing hardship and the loss of earthy joys, fleeting happiness, and creature comforts, God is adjusting the lens of my life.
If you’ve spent any time talking with me you would know that one of the greatest fears of my time apart from my life is that I would continue to rely on God. Here’s an interesting point – when you crave joy more than anything, and you have your earthly joys taken from you, even for a season, what joy is left? The eternal. I still love my life, quiet evenings in the cool breeze, the laughter of children, the touch of my wife, but God has stated very quietly, very purposefully that for these next few months my love affair with the Author of the universe begins again. In that rediscovery of His love, when all else is removed from me by time and oceans, I gain the strength to minister to these men, show them Christ and spark within them a joy that has no basis in earthly, temporal things.
It is the energy I feel now as I write these final thoughts that perhaps the greatest gift of all is the gift of being undone, the loss of earthly joy for a deeper more long-lasting one. A joy found in the realization that Christ lives, He is Lord, and He loves.
A Joy Eternal.