I had a bit of a joy-jolt this week while contemplating Galatians 5:22 (where Paul lists for us the fruit of the Spirit). I totally get that joy (or any of the Spirit's fruit) is a Gift of Grace. I completely understand that it is an empowerment from the Lord. What caught me a little off guard is the reason we are given love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. It's obvious fruit is never meant to be kept just for the tree's benefit. Fruit is supposed to plant seeds of righteousness, to aid in reproduction; fruit is supposed to be refreshing and nourishing. I know this in the back of my mind.
What struck me is how totally selfish I've been in my pursuit of joy. I want joy for me! In fact, just yesterday afternoon, as I reconnected with a dear friend I had not seen in close to twenty-five (yuck!) years, I heard myself telling her, about my study on joy. As we chatted, I admitted that what I would love to have people say about me some day is that I was a woman of joy. That in spite of hardship, or trial, or any of the curve balls life might throw my way, joy ran parallel to all other appropriate emotions, and was quite obviously noticeable. Yep, I want joy FOR ME.
That's not why God gives us fruit. It isn't meant for just me. It's meant to refresh others (perhaps to generate hope where hope is faint), and to point them to the Vine, not the branch. As it does, a desire is created on the part of The Other to also be grafted into the Vine (reproduction). Yet, on my part, a prayer to that effect has never even been whispered.
That's when it dawned on me that my prayer for joy needed to be edited. My prayer for joy ought to be redirected. My prayer for joy needed to become missional: Lord, may I be a joy-encourager, not just a joy-seeker.
However, ironically, I greatly suspect that I will discover this is a backroad to more joy.