It was late afternoon, and I sat on a park bench, watching the players on the court. I didn’t feel like crashing their party, didn’t feel like risking the fool among a throng of urban teens. I wanted to sit tight, and let the urging of the Holy Spirit pass, and then walk home and make tacos. I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I headed toward them.
The first guy I approached was Tyler. He held a ball, tossed it lightly from hand to hand, while his eyes never left me. “Can I tell you a story,” I asked? He nodded his head. So, I told him of meeting people who talked about their idols and gods, and then meeting a man who knew God, not by name, but through love. “The life force coming from him changed my entire life’s course,” I said. “Because I had met for the first time, someone in whom Jesus Christ lived out his dynamic force of love, and it spilled all over me. It wasn’t sentiment that I was drawn to, but sacrifice. What you call love between you and your girl friend is the pluck of emotional heart- strings. Jesus redefined love by being nailed to a wooden cross beam, showed us it’s forever commitment.” It all left Tyler slack jawed, and shaking his head. Me? I floated home on a jet stream of pure joy!
Someone explained joy to me in this way: Like the imprint left on a beach after a wave recedes. In context to our relationship with God, it’s the residue from a brush with Infinite Love. James talks about it in the first chapter of his epistle, and says it happens when we encounter “various trials.” In other words when I can keep my eye of faith upon what will be the outcome of the hardship, or the temptation, or the act of obedience, I will experience joy in the present. Part of the secret of getting through the now is living by faith in the after.
By urging me to initiate with Tyler, God had shifted my weight from my own strength into His arms. The after is a reward, a beautiful and concrete love that bathes me, lifts me and reminds me that redemption, rather than being a one time event, is the stuff I work out in my daily journey of faith, and which allows me to taste joy every time I obey Him.