I can’t stand Midwest weather. The winters are an angry cold without any skiing to take the edge off. The summers are dripping humid with no soothing ocean breezes. There are about 20 days in the fall and 20 in the spring where I can sit on my porch in comfort.
Those who like Midwest weather sound like someone in a bad relationship: “Sure my boyfriend/girlfriend is really mean, but sometimes (around 40 days a year) he/she can be really, really sweet.” It’s all a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome.
People say I’d miss the seasons. I tell them I’ve lived in the tropics and what I miss is wearing my flip-flops in December while I put Christmas lights on my palm trees.
“Why don’t you move?” people often ask. I could blame my wife, who loves it here. But the truth is I do indeed prefer my family, lifelong friends and my sports trio of Royals/Tigers/Chiefs (speaking of Stockholm …) to year-round 80 degree weather. But there are times, usually on a pitch-black winter morning when I know I won’t see the sun after work either, that I wonder, “How can anyone experience joy here?”
Joy has never been easy for me. Paul once said, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice!” Paul uses strong words like always and I say it again so there isn’t any wiggle room for people like myself who like to complain. It’s particularly challenging because Paul was writing from prison and wasn’t sure if he was going to live or die.
I had a college pastor once who said it like this, “Your joy is never tied to your life circumstances.”
To live this out, it has helped me to remember people who are really good at joy. My grandmother was one such person. She lived simply, in want of nothing — we had to convince her to get a window air-conditioning unit.
She could watch a bird feeder for hours, and she asked your thoughts on the Scriptures she was reading with real curiosity. When you surprised her with a visit, you might have thought you were Billy Graham in the flesh the way she lit up. She never made you feel bad for not having visited sooner, and she had something good to say about every season.
It’s humbling to think that joy is always available to me.
It means that all the times I’ve been miserable, I’ve chosen to be miserable. It means I’ve ignored the joy that is within me. It means my clever rants about Midwest weather are the sure mark of spiritual immaturity.
Paul is a testament to these facts as well as my grandmother. Ultimately, I must make a simple decision: Is joy something that life gives me and thus can take away? Or is it something given to me by the Lord that I must choose to live out?
Travis Daniel is one of 13 Faith Walk writers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Star is still looking for more Faith Walkers. Contact email@example.com.