Dogs and dog owners. I was grouchy around them for most of my life. It only took four bad experiences between the ages of nine and 12 to fill me with enough anxiety, fear, and anger – and a dash of resentment – to last the next 40 years (see “This Lucky Dog”).
Six years ago, when I let go of those feelings and emotions in order to build my relationship with my best friend Wendy, something unexpected happened. When she taught me to intentionally leave behind my fear and anger of dogs, it set me up to experience profound freedom which lead to a deep feeling of healing and wellness. Which lead to the ability to experience greater joy in all areas of my life.
Recently, my favorite radio station, JQ99 (Holland, Michigan) changed its name to JOY99.3. When I read the announcement I threw my arms in the air – TOUCHDOWN! It makes perfect sense to align the business name with the mission. My good friends, Tommy & Brook, the morning show there, often say “choose joy!” It’s their mission. And I love it!
The genius in choosing a feeling or emotion is that it can be done. Joy, for example, has been wonderfully woven into us. For believers, it’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s there for the choosing. But choosing an emotion is difficult without preparation or considering “how” to do it. I submit to you that choosing joy is easier, better, and longer lasting if you first make room for it. And be intentional.
My friend Renee Thorstad Parks finished her new book this year “Finally…JOY.” She writes: “Joy is in every choice I make. This change in my perception of myself, and the world, and the people around me has taken time and incredible patience. It has also taken hard work. I have deliberately chosen to take a good hard look at myself, my childhood, societies expectations, and I have done a great deal of research to determine that the core of me is JOY.”
“Dogs. Dog owners. Who needs ’em.” I used to choose that line and it only made me miserable. With Wendy’s counsel, I gave it up. I just quit. Left it all behind. But the resentment kept coming back. After all, I had wired my brain with those negative feelings for over 40 years. For more than a year I kept practicing and Wendy patiently watched. And it happened. One day, playfully wrestling a sock away from Rosie, one of Wendy’s dogs, I not only felt a great joy but was overwhelmed by it. Freedom! It began with dogs. Now it has wonderfully crept into all of my life.
How about you? Have you tried choosing an emotion, a fruit? Do it. Choose joy. And to experience it deeply, please make room. Just like choosing to embrace joy, choose to leave behind; sadness, resentment, anger, shame, embarrassment, worry. If you do it enough times, practice letting it go…God will take it. It’s a promise (John 16:24 “…ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”) What about those who continue to endure great pain and sadness? I still believe in the promise. I’ve seen it work too many times not to.
Wendy likes to say “patience will save your life.” It’s true. It’s very important to be patient choosing joy especially if your environment doesn’t resemble joy.
Dogs and their owners. I was so sorry and embarrassed about the things I said and felt all those years. But I left behind my sorrow, anxiety, and fear for something much, much greater. Love, joy, peace, and freedom. I leave you with the words from one of my favorite songs:
“Cause when we say ‘no’
to the things of the world
we open our hearts
to the love of the Lord and
it’s hard to imagine
the freedom we find
from the things we leave behind” ~ Michael Card
To choose joy is to prepare your heart. I would never suggest that we not experience anger, frustration, sadness or other emotions. These are feelings that are real and we all know. But eventually, you come to terms with these emotions. If they linger, they become your personality.
As I write this I am thinking about my mom who suffered a stroke yesterday. I am sad and worried. But not for long.