This morning was an astonishingly beautiful morning. Thanks to a puncture yesterday, I wandered up to McDonalds at a leisurely pace - instead of cycling in a last minute panic - to meet a friend for coffee. I have been reading John Ortberg's rather wonderful book, The Life You've Always Wanted, and have been struck by the way he talks about joy. He tells a story about his daughter Mallory and the way she taught him about deliberately choosing to rejoice, instead of missing the opportunity:
“Sometime ago I was giving a bath to our three children. I had a custom of bathing them together, more to save time than anything else. I knew that eventually I would have to stop the group bathing, but for the time being it seemed efficient.
Johnny was still in the tub, Laura was out and safely in her pajamas, and I was trying to get Mallory dried off. Mallory was out of the water, but was doing what has come to be known in our family as the Dee Dah Day dance. This consists of her running around and around in circles, singing over and over again ‘Dee dah day, dee dah day.’ It is a relatively simple dance expressing great joy. When she is too happy to hold it in any longer, when words are inadequate to give voice to her euphoria, she has to dance to release her joy. So she does the Dee Dah Day.
On this particular occasion, I was irritated. ‘Mallory, hurry!’ I prodded. So she did—she began running in circles faster and faster and chanting ‘dee dah day’ more rapidly. ‘No, Mallory, that’s not what I mean! Stop with the dee dah day stuff, and get over here so I can dry you off. Hurry!’
Then she asked a profound question: ‘Why?’
I had no answer. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no meetings to attend, no sermons to write. I was just so used to hurrying, so preoccupied with my own little agenda, so trapped in this rut of moving from one task to another, that here was life, here was joy, here was an invitation to the dance right in front of me—and I was missing it.”
I feel like I have missed many opportunities to dance of late. I've been struggling with some undiagnosed bowel issues for a long time and it's left me down and weary and all together fed up with plodding. But this morning as I felt the cold spring air on my minted teeth, and turned my face up towards the blue sky, still tinged with the haze of dawn and rising mist, I allowed the birds' song to alert me to the presence of God and the sheer joy of a new day. This Lent, instead of giving up, I'm taking up and one of the things I'm taking up is joy - the discipline of choosing to rejoice instead of wallowing. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) An invitation and a challenge - am I going to let myself rejoice today? Am I choosing to rejoice as I am commanded to do? (Philippians 4:4) I'm going to give it a go.