October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve been struggling these last few months with the concept of Joy.
What does it take to be truly Joyful?
Since starting my job 4 weeks ago, I’ve learned alot. I’ve learned to do things right, how to make mistakes, what to do and what not to do when dealing with co-workers, supervisors, and computer systems. How to ask questions, even when I think they’re dumb ones. Even dumb questions are often necessary. I’ve started to figure out what is important, and what things to let go of. When to do my paperwork and went to relax. How to budget my time, and balance my budget.
But I haven’t figured out this Joy thing.
Truthfully, going forth into the real world has been a struggle. I didn’t realize, and really how could I?, but I didn’t realize how much I would miss the closeness of a group of friends, of like-minded people, and the availability factor, how having these people within a few miles of each other meant to me. I miss my friends, is what I’m trying to say. Starting over with friends is hard. There are awkward moments, moments that are good, and just overall discouragement when you realize that you aren’t living close to those with whom you are close. It’s an opportunity, but kind of a rough go at first. I’ve been trying to make the best of my situation by being kind to my co-workers, but let’s all be honest and say that often times co-workers don’t make up the best of friends. I’ve been attempting to forge friendships with a few girls around here who are my age, attend bible study with a group of church women of all ages, and appreciate having my sisters and family close by. But I still miss grad school, with someone to chat with on every corner, and kindred spirits. While some of these people are a phone call away, a phone call is not the same…
Besides leaving my classmates, I’ve also entered a completely new realm of life. The new professional. Along with this comes questions…of “Hey, am I doing this right?” “What do I do now?” “Where was that thing again?” “What was this person’s name?”. And so on. There is always someone better at every aspect of the career than the new kid. And my mentality is not always the most kind. I have a tendency to downplay my successes and obsess over my failures. Even when I know I’m doing it, it’s still hard to not beat myself up for messing up.
So that environment is not always conducive to a joyful spirit.
And time. Oh my…time. I have goals of getting up each morning to spend time in prayer and bible study, to make my mind right with God. And then I sleep. I sleep in, rush to get out the door by 6:25, and start my morning off all wrong. And this is exactly what I know I should NOT be doing. But again, it isn’t a necessarily great way to start your day off nice and joyous.
After some reflection today ( I stayed home from work due to an upset stomach…I think my flu shot yesterday really got to me…but yay for a little extra time with the Lord! ) I’ve decided I need to make some changes. Joy is not something that is easy to come by in today’s society. But isn’t it such an awesome thing when you find someone who is truly joyful? Who exudes the spirit of God with such an awesome sense of peace that you constantly want to be around that person? I truly believe that is what God wants each and every one of his followers to be. Personalities aside, we should all be creatures of Joy, because we were created that way. Yes, we live in a fallen world, and yes this is not our home. But think of the alternative: Did God create us to be creatures of sadness? People of depression and discouragement? I think not.
I have a dear friend who always shows me the spirit of God. She is such a person of peace, a woman of calm. And I have always longed for that. And I think God has always longed for me to be that. But in order to do so, I have to put down a little baggage. Place a few things at His feet.
1. Stop the negative self-talk. A few years ago I went to a Christian counselor due to some high anxiety and depression that were hurting my life. We discussed negative self-talk quite a bit, as well as how to re-structure thoughts to change the reaction (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). I’ve realized over my life time I don’t have what the world calls “high self-esteem”. I just don’t. And I could go into all the ways and reasons why I don’t. But why bother. I know them, the first step, but I’ve also realized how important it is to recover from it. And I haven’t quite gotten there yet. For instance, if one of my co-workers is distracted when I’m speaking to them, and they don’t answer me in a the nicest tone or give me a short response, I’ve found myself reading into that immediately. “What if they don’t like me?? What did I do to them? Was it that one time? Should I do this to get them to like me?”. Which sounds ridiculous on paper. But it’s what my brain immediately jumps too, and what it has immediately jumped to for a long time.
And let’s be honest. That’s just silly. Maybe that person was doing their paperwork. Maybe they are thinking about what to make for dinner. Maybe they just had a fight with their husband and in a bad mood. It’s not all about me. That’s the “all or nothing” mentality I discussed with my therapist, and it’s what is so damaging to self-esteem. Jumping to immediate assumptions is not productive.
And I realized, not to sound rude, but who really cares? Who really cares if that person likes me? I know myself. I am a nice person. Not every minute of every day… But still. I consider myself to generally be a smart, caring individual who truly likes people. If someone dislikes me, what can I do about it? Now, If I’ve wronged them, on purpose or accident, it’s my job to apologize and ask for forgiveness when it comes to my attention. I get that. But people are people. And if someone doesn’t like me because they think my hair looks funny, they think I’m too conservative, or dislike my sense of humor…who cares? I’m starting to realize in life that all that matters is doing your best and relying on God for everything else. That is probably way too simplistic a way to put it, but it’s true. I am who I am. I am always trying to be more Christ-like, and I should always be trying to show a Christ-like attitude towards those I meet. But if I’m doing that, and a person decides they dislike me for one reason or another, then I can’t do a thing about it.
So negative self-talk needs to go out the window. Even if I mess up, it’s time to remind myself I am human, humans are not God, they aren’t perfect. Move on.
2. I touched on this earlier, but it’s time to get right with God. Every single morning. Other things are good, like cooking a healthy breakfast, exercising, or even reading the news with my morning coffee. But all of these things should absolutely come 2nd to meeting with Christ. And on the mornings when I sleep in too late, on my 25 minute commute I should seek his presence. I tried this once this week, and my fears were immediately calmed. Now, this doesn’t happen every time, and this shouldn’t be the soul reason I seek God’s presence. But it was infinitely better to walk through the doors of my job with an attitude of calm and peace, rather than of intimidation, or anger, or frustration, or fear. I think Satan works hard on me to distract me from being in God’s presence, because he knows how powerful that is. I need to fight him as hard as I can in order to realize just how great my life can be, just how much of a difference I can make in this world, when I am connected to the savior.
3. Be thankful. Be thankful for my coffee. Be thankful for my desk. Be thankful for family and friends and coworkers. Be thankful for breakfast. Be thankful for my apartment, for my paycheck, for my health, for my good night’s rest, for my chance to connect with God through prayer. Be thankful for the shirt on my back, and the pants I’m wearing, that I could afford shoes to wear today. Be thankful for the weather, whatever it is, be thankful that it’s Wednesday.
Thankfulness is so healthy, and so rare I’ve noticed. Again, not pointing fingers, because I am the biggest problem of them all. But how often do you run into people who only complain? Who only seem to look at the negative? I struggle with that. In myself and with others. It’s discouraging to me to meet people who only talk negatively about situations. I need to learn to praise God for EVERYTHING. Because it really is all a gift. And thankfulness breeds happiness, happiness blossoms to Joy.
I mentioned earlier I missed my friends. And I really really do. But last week, on a Sabbath, I had a talk with God. I went and sat on the steps down to my parent’s lake, and really kind of hashed it out. I was discouraged. Sometimes I feel lonely, and this hurts my heart. I spoke with God and asked Him why I was where I was and where are all my Godly friends? Why is everyone in Chicago and Georgia and California? I miss them. And God placed it on my heart that I was exactly where I needed to be. I was with my family. And this is where He wants me to be right now. This is where I’m suppose to make the difference. And I felt slightly chastised, because how often have I, over the last few months, complained to God about my lack of companionship, with my sisters, brothers, husband, and parents right under my nose? Even if it’s different, God placed it on my heart that this is where my life belongs right now. And I realized how ungrateful, how un-THANKFUL I had been.
I’m sure there are other things I’ll be adding to this list. But for now, I think those three are what the Lord has placed on my heart to work on.
1. Get rid of the negative self-talk!
2. Focus on God
3. Be Thankful
I know it’s simple, but I really want to adjust my attitude. Christians are called to be Joyful, to exude the Joy of Christ. That’s where I want to be.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”
-James 1: 2-4