The Dark Side of Joy

‘Mama, why are you so quiet this morning?’ My youngest one’s wide, brown eyes peer out from underneath the wild hair on her head I am trying to manage before school.

The people that know me best know that if I am not talking either something is wrong or I have a severe case of laryngitis.

I consider my answer with care….there are many correct ones.

Should I tell her I just have a lot of things to get done today and that is kind of on my mind?  I shouldn’t really tell her that Daddy and I had strong words about missing laundry.

And if I tell her I am currently waging a silent war against all hell for my joy, well, that’s just enough to make a six year-old cry.

I could go with my standard: Mama’s just tired.

And it’s oh-so-true down to my bones.

Some days…I get tired of fighting for my joy.

It’s really only a battle because joy is deeper than a good mood and more than all things going just my way.

The second I said yes to Jesus was the minute I was claiming that He would be the source of joy for all my life.  Since God is constant, then shouldn’t my joy be as well?

It’s as simple as either I said it and I believe it or I don’t.

But the battle to make my heart believe what my head knows all the time is messy and bloody.

Joy has a dark side.

True joy, deeply rooted, is quite violent.

Maybe not on the outside.  On the outside it looks rather content and like a peacemaker.  Sometimes it looks exactly like happy might, but sometimes it can look like brave in the middle of the biggest storm.  Joy looks like it knows a secret so wonderful it can afford to be extravagant with gratitude and forgiveness and love.

But from the inside?

Sometimes joy looks like struggle.

It can be a thrash to find Purpose in a day so ordinary it could simply be forgotten or a wrestling to want to continue to serve others who couldn’t care less if you show up or not.  It’s choking back with hope a grief so suffocating it threatens to steal your next breath.  It’s the loud clamor of flesh to say the words we really want to say in a heated moment or shoving our hands out against a force stronger even than gravity to say, ‘I forgive you.’

We wouldn’t have to try so hard if we would just give up, would we?

There was a pretty cut-and-dry piece of advice my father gave me I never forgot from the day he told it to my twelve year-old tom-boyish self after a small shoving match with Tony Brooks in the junior high bus line, ‘You are never, ever to start a fight.  But you sure as heck better finish one…and you should always win.’

I was raised to be a warrior.

It’s the same sort of wisdom my Father gives me today when He tells me to fight the good fight of faith in a letter Paul wrote to his friend,Timothy.

I consider these things as I give my daughter’s hair a final spritz of some spray and kiss the top of her head, praying that she will always be a warrior.

‘Mama’s just tired this morning,’ I say with a thoughtful smile, ‘but…I’m ready to take on this day now.’

And my wonderfully spunky child examines her hair quickly, skips out of the bathroom and off to her own battle.


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  1. Lis Steckle | 5th Dec 14

    Amen. Each and every day it is a mess & a battle. He has won the battle, but it’s hard for our hearts to fully grasp it. I love you, Miss Melissa! Come write with me under the cabana again? Much love!

    • | 5th Dec 14

      Lis Steckle, my soul sister from our favorite Mister (ha! that’s kind of funny)…my heart just gave a squeeze reading you this morning. Under the cabana? With you? Fighting for our joy and writing? Forever…YES. I love you, mama. Been thinking about you and the next way you will change our world. Keep fighting, sister. We need more you.

  2. Holly | 5th Dec 14

    Wow! That was so spot on! Your words are so beautiful and I love how they make me feel like I’m sitting next to you while reading them. Your wisdom, mama – is pretty amazing! Love you!

    • | 5th Dec 14

      Faithful friend, constant encourager…how I wish we were sitting at Luigi’s (again, I know, I know…I just always loved it) and having these conversations. I miss you and love you. Your words are a gift…they truly are.

  3. jyme parish | 5th Dec 14

    felt your words to my toes….

    • | 5th Dec 14

      May I tell you something? I read your sentence on my phone in the parking lot after hot yoga (yep…just ask Janna…it’s the best). And I just closed my phone and drove a ways and I just marveled at how God does this thing…yesterday I had NOTHING to write about and it felt very hard and I thought, ‘I’m just not going to write.’ But I pushed through it with much prayer and tried not to care if anyone ‘got it’…and the fun part is that your words aren’t regular…they’re poetic and beautiful and a gift to me. So…thank you for my God whisper this morning.

  4. Julie | 6th Dec 14


    • Melba | 7th Dec 14

      Well maybe I LOVE you.

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