The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 14: Joy in Everyday Miracles (1 of 2)
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my
heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
–Psalm 9:1-2 (NIV)
After finishing a six-hour-long editing session one afternoon, the writing urge pawed at me, turned circles at my feet, and whined. “Okay, okay,” I sighed. I scratched its ears and it cocked its head, looked at me, and wagged its tail tentatively. It had been days since I’d written anything other than criticism of someone else’s writing; it was time to play catch with my muse. But I had a problem: while I’d spent the past few days editing and catching up on housework, fear had slipped in and was now perched on my monitor overlooking my keyboard. It sneered at me.
I’ve been at this writing game off and on for over thirty years, and I’m here to tell you that even after so many stories, articles, chapters, poems, and books, the fear of failure still dwells in the dark recesses of my brain. Luckily, God’s Spirit is alive and well and living in my heart! Over the past several years I’ve learned how to wield the power of Truth against it, but even though this fear is emaciated, weak, and a crust of its former self, it can still bite. So that afternoon, as I cast off the editor’s hat and slipped on the writer’s beanie (you know, the one with the little propeller on top), I struggled with doubts, a writer’s worst enemy.
I knew what I wanted to write. I even had an outline tucked away in my head, but as my fingers touched the keyboard in creative rather than editorial mode, a feeling of dread, heaviness, and foreboding swept over me. The fear of failure remained perched over my keyboard, and its ugly sneer deepened into a snarl of impending triumph. Saliva dripped onto my number pad. But I took a deep breath and typed nonetheless. What came out seemed forced, contrived, amateurish.
I knew I could do far better, but as I tried to gain creative momentum, fear settled back on its haunches, stuck a toothpick in its lips, and guffawed. Yes, it guffawed! But I kept pushing until . . . something shifted. Words began to line up in an orderly fashion, giving shape and form and grace to the thoughts, stirring them to action. Ideas gelled, paragraphs rose up, points declared themselves. But the fear of failure remained firmly seated on top of my monitor. Granted, the sneer had reversed into a frown on its misshapen face, but it hadn’t budged. It leered, staring at my fingers and the words forming on the screen.
Then the most wonderful thing happened. The piece I worked on was called “A Change in Perspective,” and the intention of the essay was to convey how changing the way we look at a situation can shift not only the outcome of the situation, but also the moment-by-moment experience of that situation. We all have the ability to reframe our experiences, no matter what they are. As such, life is a matter of perspective; we always have a choice about whether or not to believe the thoughts flying through our heads, and how we subsequently act on those thoughts. “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” the Apostle Paul advised in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV).
I had wanted to include in the essay the Scripture from Isaiah that says something like, “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways,” but didn’t know the citation off the top of my head. While writing the piece, I’d included Jesus’ teaching about prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NIV) and had to look up that reference as well. I jumped onto the internet and brought up BibleGateway’s web page, and there, in the Verse of the Day box, was the following Scripture:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
–Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
I laughed. And laughed. And cried and laughed some more. “Thank you, Daddy,” I sobbed. “Thank You, thank You, thank You.” I’d just received another kiss on the cheek from a God Who cares about me more than I’ll ever know, and Who loves to encourage His children with little, strategically-placed miracles just like that. Defeated yet again, the fear of failure slid off my monitor and slinked away to its dark cave to lick its wounds, and for the rest of the day I happily played catch with my muse. I finished the essay the next morning covered in joy, peace, and a sense of triumph. I posted it on my blog page three days later.
Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that as we press into Him, study His precepts, and obey His commands, He will increasingly open our eyes and our ears to the mysteries of the Kingdom. On this earth, there’s more than meets the eye; God’s Kingdom is literally at hand. In the Second Book of Kings, chapter 6, the king of Aram, enraged because the king of Israel always knew where he’d set up camp, determined to expose the mole within his ranks. “’Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” the king of Aram demanded of his officers.
“’None of us, my lord the king,’ said one of his officers, ‘but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom’” (2 Kings 6:11b-12 NIV). The king of Aram set out to capture Elisha, and as the Arameans surrounded the city of Dothan, where the prophet resided, Elisha’s servant panicked:
“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
–2 Kings 6:15b-17 (NIV)
Elisha asked God to open his servant’s spiritual eyes and give him a glimpse into the reality that surrounds us. The Bible doesn’t explicitly indicate the servant’s reaction to what he saw, but I’m sure it was the same reaction we have when God kisses us on the cheek with one of His countless everyday miracles: joy, relief, encouragement, and confidence. I bet that guy wore an ear-to-ear smile for days and weeks after his encounter with the heavenlies. Maybe he wore it for the rest of his life!
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes