Pain pierced my chest. Sudden. Shocking. Acute, unrelenting pain. I breathed deeply. Nope. That made it worse.
I muscled through it. Sitting, back straight in my chair, feet on the floor, I read my music and sang the notes, but the pain still increased.
Nerves burning, tingling, I motioned to my director that I had to stop. The choir continued as I made my way to the back of the chairs and lay down on the cold tile floor. The pain shifted, but never lessened. I hung in there as long as I could, but as I hobbled back to my dorm room I envisioned all the things that could be wrong with me.
I was dying. I knew it. My mind raced through every scenario. How it would happen. How they would find me. My parents left without their oldest. My siblings consoling each other. The music at the funeral. My friends bereaved. I held back the tears as I pondered my own demise. Surely the end was coming, and far too soon.
I staggered into my dorm room. My roommate and her boyfriend were hanging out, unaware of the tragedy at their doorstep. They looked at me and their expression changed.
“I am in pain. Sharp stabbing pain. Right here.” I pointed to my upper chest. “I think I need to go to the emergency room.” I looked from face to face. First, my roommate who was confused, but concerned. Then at her boyfriend, a muscle-man who served in the Marines and was a Chicago city police officer. I was searching for answers, a plan.
Then he spoke. His answer was like his name- tough and straight to the point. But what he lacked in tact, he made up for in confidence.
“You have gas.”
“It’s just gas.”
“But, no. The pain is up here…”
“My mom is a nurse. I know what I’m talking about. Trust me. You gotta fart.”
The diagnosis was startling and more than a little humiliating. He didn’t seem at all ruffled by the matter. It was a fact of life. And I am sure you have gathered (since I am writing you some 10+ years later) the situation… remedied itself… just a couple hours later.
It is my first adult memory of bowel awareness. Little did I know that in a couple short years my life would largely revolve around bowel movements. Mine and others. And the more bowels we added to the situation, the more my life revolved around the toilet. Little did I know that soon the most frequently asked question when my children were out of sorts would be, “did you poop today?”
Before we continue: This Day Thursday isn’t about poop- though maybe that is your prayer for today, and if so, that’s totally cool. I get it. It also isn’t about doing more. Busy does not equal joy, and there are no awards for the fullest schedule. No need to log community service hours or reading minutes or money saved.
This Day Thursday is about release- it’s about joy. Joy is a gift of God, but if you aren’t feeling the joy, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the gift.
It might mean you have 1 of 2 spiritual issues. You could be filling yourself up on the things of the world, and leaving little room for the things of the Spirit. A diet of worldly junk makes it hard to perform any duty of life with joy. A sort of spiritual malnutrition.
Or it might be a sort of spiritual constipation. It sounds gross, but that’s where my mind goes- so you are welcome. You are doing the “right” things. Reading your Bible and any devotional you can get your hands on. Going to church, Bible study. Filling up on Jesus! Yay! But denying yourself the opportunity to let Him out.
God is a mover. He is unchanging in that He does not grow, or learn, or need. The God of the beginning will be the God of the end. But He is movement too. Think of His earthly representations- wind, fire, living water (which is moving water). He designed our bodies in the way He designed creation- things don’t stay stagnant, or if they do they usually lead to decay and disease. (Funny how the church is also described as the body.)
Your joy may be “down in your heart to stay,” but that does not mean it should be hoarded. God placed His creative spirit in each of us- something special He shares with you specifically, to help you release your joy in Him. To help you enjoy Him. It might change over time, but there is usually one thing that you have that helps you release tension and enjoy your time.
I’m not talking getting a mani-pedi. Or shopping. (Maybe giving a mani-pedi. Maybe making something to sell.) Creation, not consumption, is the key. Whatever it is- a common problem is our culture does not allow time to fulfill the creative side in us.
For me writing is cathartic, but singing is even beyond that. Not singing- making music. Creating, collaborating. I physically feel myself giving over to God what He has given to me. Breath gives life to notes and words, and makes something beautiful for and with God. It moves something inside me.
If joy is a daily prayer- and oftentimes it is for me- take a quick inventory. What has God given you to do and enjoy? Take photographs? Draw? Sing? Play? Paint? Write? Act? Dance? Create? Cook? Explore? Have you given yourself time to deliberately spend time with God while doing these things, just for the sake of doing them? Not to get busy points. Not to meet a deadline.
Facials, spa trips, weekend getaways- there isn’t anything wrong with those things. They give rest and rest is needed. But if joy is what you are after, you need something that gets deeper. Something you and God enjoy together. He gave you that gift. Turn off the comparisons and schedules and take time to enjoy Him. You may find that in releasing your time and expectations, God will release your joy, and your whole body will thank you for it.
It gives a whole new perspective to “let go and let God.” ;)
“My heart overflows with a pleasing theme…” Psalm 45:1