“He continued, ‘Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!’” Nehemiah 8:10 (The Message)
We decided as a family to celebrate the beginning of summer with a bonfire. My husband cleared away the winter debris and got the fire pit all ready, I had bought the ingredients for S’mores the day before and we were ready. Something to drink, some music playing on our phone and we were relaxing, enjoying the soft breeze and evening noises set against the backdrop of a crackling fire.
While our eight-year-old was off finding creatures, birds, and hoping to see a snake or two, our teenagers, my husband and I were enjoying catching up about life, movies, friends, plans. I spent more time listening to them banter back and forth with their dad than contributing to the conversation. Then it hit me … I’ve lived a full year without the weight of depression on my back and six months without the weight of holiday depression. As I was sitting there, I realized I was feeling happy. I was joyful.
I still struggle from time to time with emotions of disappointment, exhaustion, defeat … and had just come through two weeks of working through some of those layers. Maybe that is why joy and happiness were felt so strongly by me tonight. Maybe it was because this summer was a summer of transition – and my heart was still catching up with the emotions of our oldest graduating from high school a few weeks ago. Regardless of why, I was so thankful to God for the opportunity to feel joy and happiness while sharing a simple bonfire surrounded by family.
That’s when I realized something else about myself. For many years I took the “job” of Christ follower seriously … very seriously. I was always afraid of disappointing, disobeying, angering or grieving my Father or the Holy Spirit that I lived intentional and at times “all business,” trying to make sure I didn’t “mess up.”
God has grown my relationship with Him over the past five years and it was during the bonfire I remembered what He’s been teaching me. Jesus loved to have fun. He was always telling people to “let the little children come to me.” He is described in the Bible as speaking with compassion, grace, love, and bringing peace to others. And while the topics He spoke about were indeed serious – eternal life is no joking matter – I believe Jesus lived life enjoying it, not taking it as seriously as I have been.
During the bonfire, we had talked about dedicating our summer to God by throwing sticks in the fire after naming something we wanted to give to God and not take back. We had done the same exercise in the fall and it was very meaningful. However, that wasn’t the mood of the bonfire on Friday night and that’s when it hit me. There is a time and place for reverence and “serious.” And there is a time for just enjoying God and embracing “fun” which can be just as reverent. We were sitting around the bonfire, bonding as a family with the Christian radio station setting the mood in the background and I realized our home was being dedicated to God just as much with the “fun” as it does when we anoint the doorframes with oil or symbolically throw sticks in the fire.
I knew the vision of our household that would please God this summer. I also knew I was dedicated to doing my part as the “heart of the home” to create the right environment as much as possible, with His help. I knew that while this year’s dedication looked different from years past, God knows our hearts and I believe we pleased Him.
It was at that bonfire my heart was opened to do my part to create the summer of joy.
© Cheri Swalwell 2018