It was a last minute invite to a housewarming party, a night to enjoy the warm breeze and mingle with people we’d never met. We said we’d come and I whipped up a batch of peanut butter fudge. As expected, we knew no one, which didn’t bother us in the least. We made chit chat and toured the brand new house – beautiful and fresh as a newborn baby. The layout, the countertops, and every light fixture were the latest and greatest. The baseboards had never known dust, other than the dust of contractors. Walls and floors were smudge-free. The white tile backsplash was completely clean, not because it had been vigorously scrubbed, but because it had never before seen grease or spaghetti sauce. For every woman in attendance, seeing an immaculate house in real life felt much like spotting a unicorn. We were bewildered, overwhelmed, and impressed.
I’m a bit like a unicorn myself, I suppose. I’m a female who can’t relate with the typical lady tribe who scroll pinterest, speak the home improvement language of HGTV, and tour model homes on weekends just for fun. It’s not that these things couldn’t possibly be fun, it’s just that they’re not fun for me, mostly because there’s nothing thrilling about looking at perfectly situated things and imagining a perfect life. I already have a life, an imperfect one, but it’s mine and I own it, 100%. My house gets lived in, it accumulates dust and windows get streaked, but you know what? Spotless houses don’t have a lifespan longer than 24 hours, unless no one lives there. I know this because I aim for spotless every Saturday, and by Monday, that ship has sailed. My home is full of people I love, we have everything we need and then some, and I’m satisfied. And I like it that way.
The things you put in front of your eyeballs on the daily are the things you’ll eventually envy. That’s my spin on a line from a movie I can’t condone watching, but the statement was so profoundly true and Biblically accurate, I’ve remembered it all these years. Satisfaction isn’t a natural mindset, it has to be nurtured. I want to want my life, and in order to continue wanting an imperfect life with things that break, get old, sag, and look less than pinteresty, I have to keep some things out of my face. If I want to stay satisfied with my stuff, my relationships, my physical composition, or my life in general, I can’t be perpetually staring at what else is out there. I need a better focus.
When Paul wrote his God-inspired thoughts on joy in a letter to his friends, he wasn’t writing it from a sunlit room in his comfortable home, tucked in the safety of the desert suburbs. (Ouch.) Paul wrote his sincere ode to joy from prison. Paul had justifiable reason to seethe in disgust – he had lived in affluence until he started preaching Jesus. But he suffered the loss, and instead spoke encouragement without one word of cleverly disguised bitterness or deep-seated jealousy, even though his friends were comfortably enjoying freedom. How is it that Paul could remain content with prison walls right in front of his eyeballs on the daily? How did he exude genuine joy without one shred of envy for a better life?
Paul knew what was true: nothing in this world is built to last. All of it can and will be lost – status, stuff, situations – making all of it a worthless. Garbage. It’s all going to burn. So Paul looked beyond his prison, beyond this life, and this world. He focused every thought on the truth, on things worth considering, things that matter, beautiful things, Jesus things. His faith wasn’t shaken. Knowing Jesus was infinitely more valuable than anything else. He knew his source of genuine joy and it continued to bubble from a place that circumstance couldn’t touch. He was free. The chains that held him didn’t hold his mind and didn’t hold him down – he was good.
Faith isn’t about having a perfect life, and joy isn’t about thanking God for the imperfect, but joyful faith is about keeping a perfectly confident focus. Because no matter what we see in front of us, Jesus is there, we belong to Him, He loves us, and no one can take Him from us. We can be certain of that, and that’s something to be glad about. The faith we’re building is going to last. That’s pure joy.
Our part in building unshakable faith is finding the joy in everything. God’s part in perfecting our unshakable faith is guarding our minds with His peace. Equal parts joy and peace. That’s the secret to satisfaction, my friends.