A little more than two years ago, ‘Joy’ became my constant companion rather than an occasional acquaintance.
This was totally unexpected and more than a little remarkable. Many times in my life I had experienced Joy dropping in, surprising me, and then leaving—sometimes within a couple days, but usually within hours or minutes.
I loved the visits but figured that Joy must have other, better things to do. It had stopped by long enough to bless me with a touch of encouragement in a difficult time, or a taste of something wonderful when the world seemed particularly grey and flavorless. Usually the sudden presence of Joy had no rhyme or reason, at least, not that I could tell. It was a surprise visitor who was always welcome, slept in the guest bedroom and was normally gone before the first light of day, bed made up, a note that said ‘thank you’ and ‘see you again soon’.
But to ‘move in’ and stay? That was unexpected.
So what happened? Why had Joy decided to stick around and permeate my every day, even the really tough gut wrenching ones?
As I mulled this incongruity over and talked with friends and family I began to understand part of the reason for Joy’s permanence in my life. A couple of years ago, I decided to stop what I call “future tripping.” Future Tripping is creating imaginations of what is going to happen and then actually taking a mental and emotional trip to live there for a bit.
It is “What am I going to do if [terrible thing] happens?”
“What am I going to say if [shameful secret is discovered]?”
“What would our family go through if [feared disaster actually occurs]?”
I confess to you that I have experienced many un-realities and their imaginary emotions this way.
I have suffered huge financial losses, ended up living under one of the city bridges, been abandoned by my family, suffered the loss of each of my children, had my closest friends turn out to be villains, embarrassed myself in public, was put on the spot and said something stupid, been to my own funeral (more than once), unsuccessfully tried to stop something horrible from happening, failed repeatedly to live up to somebody’s expectations, been horribly maimed in every kind of imaginable accident known to man, lost all my teeth, lost every job I ever had, came down with every disease possible, regularly looked like an idiot, got my lights punched out for no reason, explained my driving to a police officer, lost my friends, went to school and found out I wasn’t wearing anything, got mugged, imagined the situation that I currently was in was permanent, that nothing could ever or would ever change…
You get the idea.
Where God Dwells
I have written volumes of imaginations in my own head, things that have no substance, no reality, and are empty, vain fantasies. But I treat them as if they are real. I feel all kinds of terrifying and horrible emotions and scramble to control my life so that these imaginations won’t actually come to pass. These imaginations aren’t real, but I had spent most of my life in or around them.
God does not dwell in anything that is not real.
In these imaginations, God is conspicuously absent. Why? Because God has no interest in living inside something that isn’t even real to begin with. In my ‘vain,’ empty imaginations, I am the only ‘god’ there is. I have to fix things, make sure things turn out right, try to get a handle on people and events—and frankly, I do a very poor job of it.
So, my life tended to be gripped by fear. I worked hard to get some ‘control’ to prevent these imaginations that I feared. I had a habit of treating something that had no reality or substance as if it were truly real.
A couple years ago I stopped this insanity. And here is what I discovered: Joy has a name. Joy is not only a fruit of the Spirit of God, but a manifestation of the presence of the very real Jesus who dwells inside of us.
In fact, joy had never left me at all; it was me that continually left joy, to run into some imagined future and resultant fear. It had never been joy that was the occasional acquaintance. No, it was me that had been the visitor.
For years now, I have stayed inside the confines of the grace that is for today. Today is where God dwells with me. Today is where eternity intersects my life. If grace, in part, is what energizes me to sense God’s presence and to hear his voice, then I was obviously wasting what grace was given me for my actual days on imaginations that weren’t even real, had no substance and were empty.
Do I make plans for tomorrow? Sure, but they are held loosely and with an open hand. I live in his presence, which is today.
Your turn. What are some of the things you’ve found rob you of joy?
Have you found any productive ways to help you stop “future tripping?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. (And be sure to give your email at the bottom of this page, if you haven’t already, so we can keep you up to date on our unfolding conversation.)