October 14, 2013

With Joy

A friend told me about a new little resale boutique, and since the weather around here has announced it's time to pull out the fall clothes, I popped in to see what sweaters and boots I could find to fill out my wardrobe. Though the store was neatly arranged with racks of seasonally assorted clothes and shelves showing off shoes like the house-sized closets I've seen on tv, I was the only customer.

The woman behind the counter greeted me, and I knew instinctively that she was the owner of the boutique.  Locally-owned boutiques make me nervous for this very reason: the owner is usually standing behind the counter, there are typically only a handful of customers coming in and out, and I feel an instant kinship with the owner and a strange compulsion to rally behind them. I find myself internally cheering them on, because I want them to succeed at something they clearly feel passionate about. Which means I usually buy something.

I browsed the racks, tried a few things on, and noticed everything. Because I also do this weird observation thing in small boutiques: I think about how they chose their displays and how they lay out their stores. I imagine the owner making decisions about everything from fitting rooms to merchandise to marketing.  I almost enjoy this part of shopping--the noticing part--more than I do the actual shopping for clothes. I suppose I love seeing other people's passions being pursued. It's an artist appreciating another's art, a joy derived from another's joy, my passion feeding off and growing from another's passion.
I, of course, bought something from the lady behind the counter--a cute tangerine jacket. Tangerine, the color of joy and passion. And I left thinking about the lady. What was she doing in her empty store after I left? I imagined her tidying the racks, placing the clothes back that I had tried on and not wanted, preparing shoes for the glamorous tv-shelves. I wondered what she thought about as she stood in her empty store, waiting for customers. Was she discouraged? What made her feel like things would work out after all? Probably, she has moments of sheer panic and emotional flailing, but then she goes right back to prepping clothes and thinking of marketing strategies. Take that, discouragement! She returns to what she loves to do, because she loves it and she can't not do it. She goes back to the joy of pursuing her passion.

Because it's not likely that anyone is coming in and exclaiming, "I'm so glad you're here! I've been waiting for you to sell second-hand clothes in this space all my life!" It's not likely that anyone is affirming her passion or holding her hand through the moments of sheer panic. I'm also pretty certain that people aren't stampeding to her door to say thank you or to make spirit tunnels for her to run through at the end of the day after she's vacuumed the floor and locked up for the thousandth time.

This is what I'm getting at: Joy isn't in the response of others based on what we do. Joy is in doing what God created us to do and has given us to do. Joy is in pursuing with faith and abandon the passions God has laid in our hearts, and doing them in His honor. We serve for the smile on His face.

And joy begets joy. When we serve God with joy, we in a round-about way encourage others to serve God with joy. Artists appreciate another's art, joy is derived from another's joy, and passion feeds off and grows from another's passion.

So whatever you're doing--homeschooling, event planning, cake baking, medical research, substitute teaching, diaper changing, sermon preaching, p.e. coaching, putting words out into the world, or, yes, running a small boutique--do it with joy as unto the Lord. Don't look for appreciation from others or a spirit tunnel at the end of the day as an indicator of whether or not you should enjoy what you do. Look to God, who created you to be a creator that flings tangerine passion and joy into the world. He is smiling as you do what you do for Him.