But there are certain times, certain experiences, that underscore the joy part of the equation with such assurance that I find myself full beyond capture and I simply overflow with it.
Yesterday morning I experienced one of those moments in church. I'm not a high-caliber musician by any definition, but I do know enough chords on my guitar to play - quietly - as part of the 8:30 worship Praise Band. I stand - with the other two guitarists - just behind the keyboard and the clarinets, and at a 45-degree angle from the trombones, horn and trumpets.
Halfway through one song ("You are Holy") a rich, complex harmony emerged from a layered mix of guitar chords, voices, and instrumental finesse. Surrounding our offering from the stage, I could hear and feel the voices of the congregation fill the room with praise. I could hear myself singing without reservation, and all the sounds worked together to produce a few minutes of such great beauty that I felt saturated with peace.
I don't believe my experience was supernatural. I'm more inclined to suggest that it was in fact natural - but natural to capacity. What I mean is that God created us with the capacity to experience love and peace and community with an intensity and a quality that most of us fail to engage 99.9% of the time. Inviting God into the details of my life has the effect of releasing the potential that's been there all along.
That's why I have a hard time (and I've said this before) separating my "spiritual life" from my "life". The idea of salvation - to my understanding and in my experience - has as much to do with releasing the potentiality of "Kingdom Life" in the here and now as it does with securing a spot in Heaven after I die.
Like I said, I have a good life. My goal is to live at capacity, because I believe we were all designed with so much more in mind than the torpid mediocrity of the uninspired.
My personal experience has been - consistently - that I am more likely to live in the beauty of my potential when I am in relationship with God. God, simply put, has (and continues to) put me in touch with life, love, beauty, peace, goodness and grace.
Or, to quote one of my favorite Hebrew writers: God's Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires. God's Spirit has given us life, and so we should follow the Spirit. But don't be conceited or make others jealous by claiming to be better than they are. (Galatians 5)
With a thankful heart - DEREK