I hate romantic comedies. I can imagine every male reading this entry just thought "Amen, brother." They're lame. I know the story before it begins. The guys are always way too interested in how they feel and for some reason, they always end up crying. But, the primary reason I despise rom-coms is that nasty fact that these guys make me look bad! The movie ends, the wife looks at me, and I can literally HEAR the thoughts in her mind, "I'm so disappointed." Now, I have to explain myself... now, I AM responsible for the fictional life that has just been depicted in front of us. Thanks, Nicholas Sparks.
I remember when my wife and I were just dating. We went to dinner... super classy... and just as the mozzarella sticks and Mountain Dews were being served, I decided to stand up in front of those at the restaurant and declare over-bearingly, "Hey everyone, just so you know - I love this girl. She's the girl, that I love. This one... her name is Ashlee." Then I sat back down. My (then) girlfriend was blushing and laughing. The father figure in the booth across from us leaned in, "Congratulations, buddy," with a grin of approval. I was on cloud nine and I was racking up the points. Moments like that still come in handy! Take notes boys.
Fast-forward 17 years, three kids, thousands of dollars in debt, and a fair amount of poor choices later... our dinners out consist more of our children making art out of the food, ignoring all lines of instruction while we periodically referee the toddler's disputes with the Kindergartner and answer every known question about any given subject the eight-year-old is currently insterested in, and sometimes, we get to look at eachother across the table through the chaos and smile...or not. It's good times. Of course, you don't really get to see those moments in "The Notebook." People don't want to think that romance comes with dirty diapers.
The other day, I was riding with a friend to pick up some lunch. I had been dealing with this internal battle of knowing how to handle the decisions in my life and the decisions my family needed to make. We were talking about how difficult it is to make those basic choices for your family, because everything seems to impact everything else, and nothing ever seems perfectly clear. My friend said, "All I know man, is if you stay faithful to the things God has called you to, everything will work out." Now, I didn't like that answer... That was a rom-com kind of answer. That's something Sparks would say. Of course, he did preface it with, "I know this may sound cliche but..." Have you ever noticed that the things that become cliche tend to be true? Then, I was reminded of that verse,
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness."(1 John 1:9)
I'm not saying that having trouble making life choices is a sin, but I am saying that we are not built to know all the answers. We need a Savior. Even in leading our family or loving our spouse well. Living unrighteously includes being too selfish to ask for advice or writing off the advice someone gives you, calling it cliche because you're too afraid to face the truth of who you really are. But if you confess your sins... if you take inventory of the mistakes and failures, examine your own heart and choose to lay them at the foot of Jesus rather than hide them in the shame called "self-pity" – He is faithful and just to cleanse you and make the wrongs, into rights.
I left that unexpected conversation/revelation contemplating several things. I decided to search that verse and explore more Scripture (I mean, that's what we're supposed to do, right?). Earlier in the chapter, John describes having seen and heard the Life with his own eyes and touched 'that which was from the beginning' with his own hands. He goes on in verse four to say, "We write these things so that our joy may be complete." This baffled me. How can someone complete their joy? Or, maybe the better wording is that his joy was fulfilled. Even still, how can someone fulfill their joy?
The culture of today is so focused on self. My rights. My purpose. My body. My choice. My fault. My duty. My gender. My beliefs. My truth. We are bombarded with national "news" about choices made by some two-minute celebrity. Social media glorifies the individual, tailor made experiences to fit every person with any story, just the way they like it. Need a mentor? There's an app for that. Need a burger? There's an app for that. Need a ride? Need a lover? Need an app? It's all about me.
Imagine if all those years ago, I had decided to stand up in front of the restaurant and proclaim, "Hey, everyone.. just so you know - I love me. I am me and I am the person who I love, because I am awesome. Nick....me...." Wow... what a love story, huh? So, vulnerable and honest and open, right? Me loving me. And, I lived happily ever after...... What a story I would tell my children and their children after them, right? Except... there would be no children to tell, because my wife-to-be would have become my wife-not-to-be after the mozz-sticks were finished... What if the disciples hadn't written the letters to the New Testament churches? What if the followers of Jesus decided they weren't willing to take a risk on sharing the Gospel, because it was totally against the culture? Or, what if the story became more about themselves, rather than the One who transformed their hearts? Thankfully, the joy that filled their hearts, that joy that gave them hope for a new reality in Jesus, a new life that they had waited for centuries - that joy was overwhelming.
And the only way to complete joy is to share it. To pass it on to others and let them see for themselves. That's the fate of pure joy, it's to be shared with anyone that will listen! And it is the opportunity that we as the Church have to share with the world. That we have seen in our own lives who Jesus is. It may sound cliche... but we are each called to share the Gospel to the world around us. To make our own joy complete.
Jesus offers joy. It's our strength. It's our testimony. It's our reminder. Joy that He doesn't let us down, that He hasn't forgotten us, and He is faithful and just. He meets us where we are and doesn't leave us there! He stood in front of the world and made it clear that He loves us, completely. Now, we have the opportunity to do the same.
May God reveal the joy in us and give us the courage to complete that joy by sharing with the world around us.
FB: Nick Stohler
Hey, HighPoint Church! Interested in writing?