So far, as I look at my experience here in Ethiopia in the big picture, one thing has come to my mind and been consistent. That being that I am a slave to “things”. Things that look to steal the real joy in my life. I believe that circumstances, people, and things can rob us of experiencing true JOY. Often times when I think of things that bring me joy I rattle off things that are superficial, meaning that if they were taken away from me I would feel as though I was robbed or empty handed. This is not to say that things are bad, but I more so think that the things that we rejoice in should be carefully evaluated. Evaluated in such a way as to see if they are things that will wither over time or things that will always remain. I personally would prefer to invest time into the later of the two, finding my real joy from things that will remain or never fail.
In Philippians Paul has unspeakable joy! He is rejoicing in spite of his circumstances. He is not worried about himself but is concerned about others. He is unselfish in a time when he had all the right to be selfish due to his circumstances. Rather he found pure joy in his faith in Christ, his friends, and his sufferings.
In many ways I see such characteristics in the children and staff at Bright Hope School. It would be easy for the children and staff to look at the outward appearance of themselves or of their living circumstances (poverty), in which they would be using the measuring stick of man. The measuring stick of man says that we need “things” in order to experience pure joy. However, I have observed a different kind of joy coming from Bright Hope. In the midst of their circumstances I have seen some of the greatest smiles, humility, unity, and relationships. While the people here seem as though they don’t have much from the outward appearance, they in fact have more than one would ever know unless stepping foot into there culture. And when i say more, i don’t mean a materialistic more. I have never been with people who are so relational. There minds are set on “others” rather than themselves. It blows my mind that in such circumstances when it seems as though they need to live for themselves to make it through…they are in fact focused on others. They are not living for cheap things that will leave them empty handed. They are living for things that will remain, investing into people and relationships. This is evident with our daily coffee breaks. We (the team) feel as though it is unnecessary to have a coffee break right before lunch that cuts into our work time. On the other hand, to the people at Bright Hope it is not all about the work or “things” built or amount of rocks carried. It is about relationships and building “others” up. It is also evident when you have an army of children willing to help you carry rocks from one side of the grounds to the other. Or when the children simply smile from one ear to the other when we say “salem” to them in passing. Other than showing pure joy, the only “things” on their mind is pens, gum, or candy… which are things we take for granted anyways. When all joy would seem to be robbed from them, they demonstrate a pure joy that i have never seem. I believe that this is because they are not living for things, they are living in the midst of their circumstances and receiving their joy from meaningful things that will last. If it isn’t apparent yet, this one thing that will last is Jesus Christ and he is all about relationships and serving others, just as he did for us. God loves people, therefore relationships will last. God can be seen all over in these people. They are living for things that will last, independent of their circumstances that could rob them of experiencing pure joy. Although they may not have much, materialistically speaking, they are rich in their inner being.
Again this is not to say things are bad but as a Christ follower my life does not consist in the abundance of things I possess. Christ is where our true joy comes from, we must seek the kingdom of God above all things. To me, that means that I should start living for the one real thing that brings true joy. I should not allow circumstances and the amount of things dictate the amount joy I experience, because after all they leave me with unfulfilled joy. Rather I need to live out the greatest commandment that will never fail or leave me feeling empty. Simply said, don’t be selfish and love others as yourself. Easy to say, but hard to do. For this reason, I hope that I can take with me the way in which the people at Bright Hope experience and demonstrate pure joy in the midst of their circumstances. Their greatest concern seems to be about taking care or others and serving others. They are not living for cheap things!
What brings you joy? Are you living for cheap things or things what will be steadfast in the long run?