You know, I just realized: Christmas is way over for the rest of the world and here I am on the ninth day of Christmas. Oh, what contrarian glee! Folks, it's not even Epiphany yet! The candles in the windows are still lit. Come on now.
The nine ladies dancing of the ninth day are supposed to symbolize the nine gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When I think of each of these, I can think of something to do in regard to each, some way I can do something to effectuate the particular fruit in my life. Self-control? Bite my tongue. Don't blurt out what I'm thinking. Kindness? Take a sick neighbor a meal. Rake their leaves. Pick up the groceries the lady dropped in the grocery store. Hold the door.
But two of these fruits -- joy and peace -- seem different. . . like in that you can't get there from here. You can't just do something to see these fruit in your life. You have to aim somewhere else to get the thing you want.
When I think of peace, I think of that oft-cited verse from Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I used to dislike this verse because I focused on the "Do not be anxious part of it." I could never quite do that. You can't aim at not worrying. You just worry! I found that the best thing I could do was simply to aim at Jesus, to focus on thanking him for what I had. Then peace will come -- not immediately, perhaps, but sooner or later. Aim at Jesus and you get peace as a byproduct of that relationship. To the extent I don't experience that, I'm just imperfect and growing in my trust in God over the circumstances of my life.
Joy is the same way. Get joy? How do you do that? It's not the same as being happy. You can't just turn it on. It's something different -- a deep, settled contentment that comes from knowing God. Again, I think this comes by focusing not on what might make me happy but simply on God.
So what's new about all this? Absolutely nothing. But it's a new year and I want to aim at the right thing, at the right person. I might just have joy and peace.