Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jesus and Joy

I'm a cerebral person.  A reasoner.  A lover of words.  I expect God to speak to me in words.  In specific, rational statements. 

He certainly does that.  He gave words to Moses, even wrote them on stone tablets.  He spoke words through the prophets in the Old Testament, and to the disciples hundreds of years later, giving specific instructions about where they should go and what they should do. 

But I'm beginning to understand that God's messages don't always come on the cognitive level. Often they don't involve words at all.  Sometimes they're simply dim impressions.  A fleeting sensation of thought, a vague idea, taking form in bits and pieces, over a period of time.

Lately I've been getting a kind of wordless perception that involves "Jesus" and "joy." 

The first whiff of that breath-taking combination of words was just a fleeting impression of Jesus being joyful, for some reason, or for no reason in particular that I could identify.  Just Jesus and joy, together.  Beside me.  It was a pleasant thought, but didn't seem significant at the time.

A few days later, I received word of my dying friend's vision of Jesus.  She said his eyelashes sparkled (see previous post).  Somehow, maybe because the stage had been set by my first impression, this image of sparkling eyelashes seemed a reflection of Jesus' triumphant joy, like a twinkle in his eye, or a wink, even.

Then the next week, while enjoying Joyce Landorf's book, I Came to Love You Late, I read a description of the meeting of Lazarus and Jesus after Jesus raised his friend from the dead.  Landorf says Lazarus ran to Jesus and they embraced: 

"Then, flinging their heads back, they were absorbed in an exhilarating, yet holy, kind of contagious laughter and joy." 

This, again a visual image, seemed to reinforce the sweet combination of these two "J-word" images.

Why does the information come this way?  Why doesn't Jesus just tell me he's happy, and leave it at that? 

Sometimes he speaks that way.  He makes a simple statement and the words hit me like a wave of warm tropical air that sweeps me away and changes me forever. But it's almost as if God knows I can't truly receive this particular truth in that way. 

Maybe if the knowledge of Jesus' joy is to become more than just a cerebral piece of information, a concept I accept intellectually, something I stand apart from and observe from a distance;

If, instead, it is supposed to penetrate deeply into my spirit, to change me, to make me a participant in his joy;

Then perhaps the perception needs to be placed there, in that spirit space, in a different way than just one simple statement, in words.

Don't get me wrong.  I still believe that words are important, and that God communicates to us through them.  The Bible, the bedrock foundation of all we know about God, is full of words we believe were whispered into the minds of human writers to teach us about Him. But words are just sounds, or marks on paper, until God's Spirit breathes them into our hearts. 

When He does that, communication becomes communion, and we are infused with what he is feeling.  He is feeling joy. 

I still don't feel the Joy of Jesus.  It's not spilling over into my heart right now.  But that's okay.  I believe God is in the process of speaking to me, and that's good.  We walk by faith, not by sight.  Meanwhile, I go forth into this day with an open heart, eager for the next impression of the Joy of Jesus to come.