Stepping into my garden, it's easy to overlook one of my treasures. Yes, almost hidden beneath the ground cover of my Wandering Jew plant, a simple stone sets atop the soil. A dear friend, knowing my personal and painful journey, had the simple inscription "JOY" lasered into the surface of that flagstone. She sadly noted that the three-letter word she desperately desired to showcase was difficult to see. Immediately, I thought how fitting that was! Those faint letters are not unlike the invasive vines that have threatened to overtake its presence. And yet, if you set your focus, JOY is easily visible on my cherished garden stone! Indeed, my friends, circumstances can blind us to the true joy that is meant to be ours in Christ...Yes, the so-called ugliness of our lives can distract us from the beauty of a life hidden in Christ.
It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And when guests visit my home, many have lingered in my garden, but have winced or grimaced at another work of art that I treasure. Yes, should you start up the oak stairs in my little town home or should you head back down those same stairs, your eyes are sure to land on the burlap sculpture of my Savior with a crown of thorns piercing His brow. And like many others, it could be that you, too, will take note that this burlap creation's "gaze" seems to be fixed upon you as you tread my wooden stairway. To some it is horrific and distressing and even frightening. But I am overcome with the joy of that image. No, that wasn't a typo, my friends. And I'll gladly tell you why!
Gazing upon that burlap bust of the ONE who freely gave His life for me, I am reminded of three indisputable facts...First, JESUS, the embodiment of JOY, is a picture of a life well spent. Yes, a thorny crown intended to mock Him and inflict horrific pain upon Him was unable to divert Him, for He was worshiping. Yes, He was declaring the worth of His Father to the very end. Next, my JOY abounds and often spills in tears as I behold the One whose eyes beheld me! Emptied of self, yet forever full, He set His gaze beyond His wounds and scars to view the needs of OTHERS. And lastly, throughout my day, and multiple times each day, that work of art reminds me that nails didn't hold my Savior to that cross...Love held Him there! The cruelest of deaths could not imprison Him with anger or bitterness or rage...He was free! Oh, dear one, YOU, too, are free to live and move in JOY...And that's something beautiful to behold!!!
As I write these final words, my family is busy counting the days to our annual family vacation! My oldest grandchildren are aware that a pool and a sunny beach await them. As I type, they are preparing for fun in the sun with swimsuits and water shoes and sand buckets in tow! What about you, my friends...What are you "carrying" on your journey? Have the not-so-pretty circumstances of your days blinded you to the beauty of living in joy in spite of everything that's happening around you? Will you live in the readiness and the awareness that the messiness of life is merely a platform--an altar--to showcase Christ? My friends, may we remember that JOY is not our destination on this highway of life, but it should be our "vehicle"--our mode of transportation!