My son wears a little red cape. It’s basically a piece of red fabric with tiny black velcro tabs to secure it at the neck. He wears it to church and to the grocery store and in the backyard to play. I can tell he feels so powerful in it, and his dramatic poses and fierce karate chops and spin kicks prove it. He loves his cape, and when he catches the wind just right and it flows in a theatrical cascade of awesomeness behind his running body, pure joy beams with the requisite intensity from his eyes.
When we are running errands, little old ladies with easy smiles ask, “Who are you supposed to be?” as he postures for attention. Tattooed men with funny cigarettes lean out of car windows with an “I see you, little man” as he zooms passed them to spin the smoke in sensational flourish. The excited points and giggles of other small children with their moms or dads leads to amused inquiry: “Hey, where’d you get that cape?” Everybody should have something that makes him feel as amazing as my son feels when he wears his cape. Everybody should have someone in her life whose joy is as contagious as my son’s is.
Sometimes, we Christians forget that joy is a choice. We cast things and people and situations aside when they don’t cater to our preconceived notions of what joy is. We walk around with a Marie Kondo-like fixation (Does it bring me joy?) instead of heeding the call to “Count it all joy” (James 1: 2).
Yesterday, as I walked around a track, convincing myself again to make my personal fitness a priority, I made a conscious decision to choose joy. While my legs were feeling the burn (ahh, remember Richard Simmons in the 80s?), I told God, “Thank you for allowing this whole body to work even though I haven’t exercised in so long!” When I looked at my step counter last night and saw that I was only 700 steps from 10,000 (a milestone I’ve NEVER been so close to), I dragged my oft-lazy behind back to the track with family in tow. I woke up this morning, with that same behind sore in places it has never been before, and I thanked God for achy cheeks because that meant that I had actually worked some muscles and not just pretended to do so.
I find the phrase “count it all joy” particularly poignant as I ease my way into fitness with walking. Each step is a literal opportunity to number the blessings I have. While it is impossible to actually articulate every grace and mercy from God, there is a peace and excitement that comes from trying to do so. Finding myself in a state of flux, I’m learning to choose joy. Inevitably, after just a few blessings counted, I am breathing normally and even smiling because no matter what chaos is about me, God’s giving outshines it. Once I take the time to recognize what God has given, I can’t help but be grateful. And gratitude is the prelude to joy.
We can’t all go through life wearing a little red cape and jumping off porches and popping out from behind bushes to thwart perceived enemies, but we can don our Christian cloak of joy!
And sometimes, just for fun, we can also put on a red cape and run around like a six year old. There’s nothing wrong with that either!