Be a Rejoicer
I sat at the kitchen tables a few weeks ago. The sky through the window was putting on it’s nightly performance and pink and orange danced their way across the West. I breathed in my cup of mint tea and picked up the phone.
I dialed my sister-in-law looking for an out.
A friend, a sweet friend, was pregnant. So the ladies of the church were gathering to share their wisdom and help build up her nest.
When I passed her on Sundays, I smiled and gave her a hug. I even inquired bout her pregnancy but the shower felt like an overwhelming reminder of my aching, empty womb. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to curl up on the couch, eat an entire bowl of popcorn, and watch entirely too much TV.
She didn’t give me the out I was looking for.
“I think,” she treaded lightly with her words, not wanting to harm but wanting to bold proclaim truth, “I think that you need to go and rejoice. It’s a command. We don’t get to pick and choose to only weep. There are people who have wept with you and you need to be the one who rejoices. I think God will bless you for that.”
It hurt, but I put on a sundress, went to Target for a gift. The baby aisle provoked a few too many tears so I quickly grabbed a shadow box for memorabilia and through misty eyes snatched a card that I truly hope was a baby shower card. The shower was lovely and the sweet baby never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Sometimes, standing with a friend through joy can be almost as difficult as pain.
Friendship is sacrifice. All love demands something of us. But yet, we treat it like a commodity, as if there’s a trade off. I’ll quietly listen you to vent, but then you surely should listen to me. We do our minimum and then want out.
As Christians, we are called to love but bitterness and resentment seeps its way into our relationships. We soon become empty and drained from pouring into others. We need to give. In giving to others, in emptying ourselves, we feel the fullness of Christ. But we are not simply called to mourn with those who mourn, we must intentionally live out the rest of the verse and rejoice with those who rejoice.
I’m grateful for a specific friend, who has greatly influenced my theology of rejoicing. I must pause and give credit to the Holy Spirit for the wisdom that has been lavish upon her and the love she shows for others. She has never failed to surprise me on every holiday and special occasion with a lovely, meaningful token of friendship and appreciation. And she actually still uses the United States Postal Service to surprise people with blessings. One day, I’m sure you will all be reading the wisdom she has to offer but for now, know that these ideas have been greatly influenced and formed by her words.
I now see that if I walk through my faith in a dreary way, bounding from problem to problem trying to be the hands and feet of Christ, I am a Martha, distracted with serving and not enjoying the image-bearer of God in my presence. I need to stop, be, and rejoice with them. I have always imagined Mary as an Maryanne Dashwood-type, always ready with a smile and delighted with life. We could all use a little more delight in our day.
My husband and I celebrated the anniversary of our wedding day this week. As I walked up the driveway from the mailbox, I saw a little package. Opening it quickly there was a note and a gift card. This friend championed our marriage. She told me that they wanted to make sure they weren’t just friends who went above and beyond in trials but also in the joys of life. They lavished the love of God on us as much as a friend who brought us dinner after my surgery.
We take the downs of life seriously. Much of what I’ve written has been encouragement to the weary. But today, I want you to stop and champion the good. Write a note to a friend celebrating a birthday. Take a quick peek at the sale section and find a candle or bath bomb to surprise a friend with. I promise you, it all deepen your affection for them.
Rejoicing is often dismissed as frivolous but it is a truly a labor of love. We cannot stay full in Christ if we are not fully present in our relationships. Being present in crisis is important, but we must never let ourselves be emptied by focusing only on the weeping of the world. Open your eyes and embrace the beauty the joy that your friends are eager to celebrate with you.