Learning Joy In Rejection

giraffesdancing

I’ve told the story before about a giraffe named Gerald who dreams of being a dancer with the other animals in the jungle.  Gerald has the desire but his ability to dance like the others isn’t quite up to par.  His knees are crooked and his legs are thin.  All the other animals mock him when he approaches the jungle dance floor.  His swagger  (as they say in jungle-eeze) isn’t zig-zaging like the others.

Gerald took lessons, studied the moves, more grooves, and eventually developed his own style. One day, on jr.audition day, Gerald showed up prepared to zig and zag in a confident direction.  After many hours on the dirt floor, he perfected a secret move all his own and still wasn’t chosen.

As he lumbered off in a dejected fashion, the lonely lanky spotted giraffe felt rejection from his “wanna-be’s”.  Downcast, he met up with his cricket friend who chirped “Gerald, you just need a different song.” Gerald’s heart lightened a little as he took the cricket’s advice.  He retreated to his own little jungle corner to let his heart dance free.

Soon, Gerald was prancing and sashaying once again.

Suddenly, a crowd gathered in amazement and recognized Gerald could dance after all.  All he needed was his own little space be brave and bold, freedom to unleash his rhythm by the light of the moon.

It might seem strange to you to tell you I think about Gerald often.  I know how this kind of rejection feels.  What the story doesn’t tell you is Gerald had a lot of doubt going into dancing.  So much doubt he wanted to give up.  He wanted to do anything else instead of dancing.  Gerald also had a big heart to teach others to dance but he couldn’t lead out because he felt unqualified.

The story didn’t mention how Gerald was faithful to his craft.  There were lots of practices he only watched from the outlying and surrounding undergrowth as the other animals gracefully swayed.  Gerald watched in wonder at their magical skill.  He longed to be included and seen by them.  But shamefully, self-doubt kept coming against him.  Opposition came in the jeers and taunts of his so-called friends.  Provocation came from his inner critic.  He was discouraged and just wanted to give up.

Why does this story move me so much?  It has a happy ending like most children books do and Gerald found the courage to recover a dream.  For me, it also speaks of how we should never give up uncovering who God created us to be.  If you are honest with yourself, wouldn’t you admit you want to belong somehow?

The search for purpose sometimes leads a person to unexpected places.  Michael Hyatt says to do “what makes you cry” in life.  What I’ve found so far is dreams are full of hard work and lots of practice.  There’s lots of pieces to making a dream work.  There’s even more work to get someone to notice your dance in a jungle full of excellent dancers.

So why should we try?  If Micheal Hyatt were here now I would ask him, “What’s the point?”  It doesn’t matter if you are a musician or not, please watch Victor Wooten’s talk. His lessons about life, success, creativity, learning, passion, permission and smiling are profound.

In using my creative confidence, I still have some lessons to learn.  Like Gerald, my dance doesn’t look like others, but mine is a worthy and weighty move .  I have also learned to not lean on feelings but to dance anyway.  Taking action on an idea requires applied practice and a dedication to stay the course.  Dancing takes courage, skill, and ability.  It takes guts to put your best foot forward.  It’s risky, hard and you may lose.  But… you will never know discovery unless you try.  It’s never to late to be what you might have been.

What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Speaking metaphorically, life is a dance.  We all have a unique design made by a God without rival.  And when an incomparable God has placed His uniqueness within, it’s our best response to practice and sing in the octave He gave you.  There’s no two dancers the same, each are unique in every way.  And finally, God just loves it I show up for practice, even with my deficiencies.

So where are you in this dancer’s world?

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Joy at the Cross

pain face

I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers lately mostly because I am watching the health and mental capacity of my mom decline.  The once vibrant mom I knew is slowly fading with dementia day by day.  It’s like a slow death.  So I asked the Lord to bring me joy FOR her.

Joy is difficult to realize when you lose someone you love dearly.

However, there are some situations when it’s easily accepted.  For instance, at the end of person’s life with the natural progression of old age.  We often ask for early release unto death with the suffering by pain and with the terminally ill.  Over the years with technology and advances in modern medicine, we’ve even grown accustomed to watching pain close up too.

How can joy ease the pain of death?  I think about how Mary, the mother of Jesus handled it.  The Bible relates her standing at the cross where Jesus died.  She had support system that included, John the beloved, and two other Marys.  Onlookers to this event had a front row seat to watch the immense pain-filled suffering of Jesus, and watch her response as his mother.  I would have been wailing if it were me.

I’m grateful she handled it gracefuly.

The Bible doesn’t talk about her emotions a lot, but I assume she cried.  This tragic event would be in addition to all the other times a mother weeps for her children from her kitchen, on her knees, or while sharing with other mothers.  Mary was a normal human and full mothering emotions after all.  Did she use self-control?  Did she weep for days when Jesus died?  Was there any consolation for Mary even knowing Jesus was going back to the Father?

There had to be some comfort for her, afterall, Jesus predicted his death many times.

I’m also reminded as a mother that watching your child die, at any age, is never easy.  I know, however, Mary was highly favored and entrusted with the care of Jesus unto death.  I would agree joy is part of God’s design which can be activated in very tough and joy-less situations like death, grief and loss of a loved one.

So where is the joy in death?  Mary witnessed death with intensity.  No one expects to be crucified, a brutal and cruel death nor leave this world in such a way.  So where’s the joy in watching death slowly snuff out life?  Jesus explained how joy works in his last meeting with the disciples and I think he explained it specifically for mothers to grasp ahold of.  Here’s his final word on death:

“The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy”

John 16: 15-33  Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”  At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

Jesus saw they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Wait a minute, did Jesus just say joy is completed in death?  As hard as death is to watch, it’s even harder to accept the reality we will never see our loved one again this side of heaven.  But encouragement comes with joy, because we know one day we will join them again in Heaven.  Jesus encourages us further for days filled with trouble…

“I have told you these things, so in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I believe Jesus was saying there is joy found in death, and this joy completes our peace.  Joy, through death, comes in knowing where our final destination is.  There’s an eternal Home waiting for our arrival and for many of us, a lot of loved ones are waiting for us to arrive!

There’s joy in knowing there is an end to pain, suffering, and a place where automatic joy begins.  So when watching someone die a slow painful death, for me joy paves the way for my faith and gives me assurance that I too can have joy here right now.  Joy has become my sacrifice of praise and helps my heart to understand there is joy complete when peace comes.

Let this kind of joy be yours as you suffer through a death or difficult situation.  The opportunity to choose joy is only given this side of  heaven.  Heaven is already abounding and full of JOY.

Jesus gives us joy but He IS JOY too!

The compassionate heart of Jesus amplifies joy in our lives.  God knows how valuable and helpful it can be, as joy becomes our reward for going through all situations.  You can have the attitude of joy in your heart with great rejoicing on your lips even in death.