Have you ever taken the time to consider what life would be like if we lived by the strength of the Lord's joy? Like that song we used to sing in Sunday school, "the joy of the Lord IS my strength?" I used to wonder what that really looks like, relying on the joy of Christ to be my moment-by-moment strength.
Heading into this semester, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the Bible courses here, and registered for Spiritual Formation. This class is unlike the others I am taking; there are no tests, only a handful of papers. We are reading and learning all that we can about the freedom Christ has for us, rather than the rules and checklists that we have created. We have spent the semester studying and practicing the disciplines from Foster's book, and have been challenged to move past the legalism and the "shoulds" of Christianity, into willing obedience. We have studied several different ways in which people most connect to God and have read from Thomas a Kempis, perhaps my favorite dead monk of all time.
Before, John's claim that Jesus came to give us abundant life was routine to me. In a way, the life he gave became old news. Jesus didn't come so that we could create a legalized routine, have quiet time for exactly an hour each morning, or even serve until we are wiped out. He came that we might have life. I've been given the privelege to know him, and his grace is actually mine. Of course, I will continue to read the Bible, serve, and pray. But the daily checklist that I've felt the need to measure up to is fading away. I've been able to recognize the freedom I have in Christ, and with that, have a found a new sense of joy and expectancy in what he has for me. He came to give us life. At the same time, I have felt the urgency towards responsibility. I don't want to hang onto the cheap grace that Bonhoeffer describes. Real obedience leads to joy and joy leads to an increased acceptance and appreaciation for obedience. This long, at times complicated, journey has brought me to a place where I long for the Lord's joy. And although I am still struggling along the way, I have found that the joy of the Lord is my strength.