"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice" [Philippians 4:4]
The Guilt of Joy
Am I the only one who feels this way? There has always been the gnawing feeling that I needed to enjoy it as much as I possibly could. Life, that is. I desperately tried my best as I was growing up in the Midwest to relish every moment. But often there was the drudgery of schoolwork, sickness and just getting through the day. Yet in spite of those setbacks, I would attempt to plan for some joy sooner or later.
Here is the rub. To enjoy life as a kid was to be able to go over to my friend’s house for some “ketch” or maybe get to go to Longacre Swimming Pool on Saturday. Getting Barbara Flaskamp to notice me at school brought not only a sense of embarrassment, but also of joy. “Yeah. She probably thinks I’m cute.” But soon Life 101 encroached and the moments of joy seemed to morph into other requirements. Surely one didn’t need to get drunk in order to enjoy life. Should promiscuity really be tried as many of my friends suggested? Surely a good church-going lad of my culture and upbringing couldn’t go there.
So a life of commitment and self-control ensued as I did my best to serve the Lord who gave us all good things to enjoy. So why didn’t I find the joy in life I was told to embrace? Why did I feel guilty when I let my hair down and went to a movie or just kicked back and played a game of Scrabble or went on a self-serving vacation? Perhaps I didn’t understand what joy was. Or maybe I didn’t know how to enjoy life. And if that was the case, not only would I be missing one of God’s marvelous graces, but also I would probably been sinning as well. How can I not enjoy life?
It’s taken me a few years to discover that we need not feel guilty for relaxing. Loafing is one thing—relaxing another. We all need some quiet time to ourselves. Don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy it. And as serious as life and eternity are, I see no prohibition from the Lord to avoid having fun at all costs. Perhaps some of us were schooled too severely in the notion that fun was somehow sinful. Church ought to be fun. So should life. So, go ahead, grab for all the joy you can get this side of glory. Rejoice!