I will say it again: Rejoice!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! ~Philippians 4:4
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. ~Romans 12:15
You know what I need to work on? Rejoicing. If I am going to be calling myself a Christian, then I should probably be looking like a real Christian. I’m not sure what you think a Christian looks like, but I don’t think there is a cookie cutter mold for every Christian. We aren’t supposed to look exactly alike- we are the Body of Christ, and we all have different gifts, and different purposes.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. ~1 Corinthians 12:12
That being said, we don’t need to look exactly like our brother/sister in Christ. But we should be rejoicing. And we should be rejoicing with one another.
What is she talking about? Well, we had a family over for dinner. It was so much fun! The adults were chatting happily, and their three kids were running around with our three kids- everyone had a blast! Then it was time for the other family to go home. If you have young children, I don’t need to go into the details. Kids don’t want to part from one another, even if it is bath night and close to someone’s bedtime… So one way or another it was decided that the older boys could hang out a bit longer, and my husband would run Big Brother’s friend home when it was closer to the big-boy’s bed time.
My daughter was not happy. Her friend had gone home. And while she was prepping for bed, her big brother was running around and giggling with his buddy. Life is tough.
“What’s wrong?” I asked the pouting tooth brusher.
“Send him home!” She said through a mouth full of toothpaste bubbles.
“Send your brother’s friend home?” I asked.
An empathetic yes accompanied by a fierce pout was the response.
“How do you think your brother will feel about that?”
“Well, I don’t have my friend!”
“Yes, you don’t have your friend. But I asked you, how will your brother feel if we send his friend home?”
“And how do you think his friend will feel? It looks like they are both having fun, do you think our friend would be happy if I went outside and told him to go home?”
“Well next time just my friend gets to stay!”
“Hmmm…” I began washing the face that never fails to have remnants from every meal of the day somewhere on it, “And how would your brother and his friend feel if next time I said, ‘You can’t play together. Go home!’?”
“Well, it’s not fair!” was the over the shoulder response as I steered her towards her bedroom.
“You mean, it’s not equal? Do you think everything has to be equal all the time?”
A decisive nod. Because everyone thinks that everything would be okay, if only everything were equal.
So I reminded her of the time her brother had to come home with me while she got to stay and play with a friend. And the time she stayed with me so she got to have cookies, and her brother had none. I thought of a few other examples and then said, “Well, if everything is going to be equal, I suppose that you cannot have a friend over next time, because you’ve already had someone over twice. And also the next time we make cookies, you get none.”
This long litany of times where the unequal scale was tipped in her favor was met with quiet. So I slowly tucked her into bed.
“You know what I would love?” I said into the quiet. “I would love if our family could be happy when their brother or sister is happy. And not worry about who is more happy, or who has had more time with friends. I would love if we did not worry about everything being equal, but if we could be happy for each other. You just need to remember that happy times will come for you too.”
Now this is a hard and cumbersome talk to have with a five-year-old. But I suppose an optimistic parent hopes that these kind of talks will stick little by little. But what struck me was, later that evening, as I was tucking in Big Brother, I had almost the exact same conversation. The next day’s activities included something his sister really enjoyed, but he merely tolerated. So he said we shouldn’t go. I asked him how he thought that would make his sister feel? Then he said he should get to do something equally fun, because that would be what is fair. So I told him about the conversation I had just had with his sister who had to wave goodbye to her friend, while he got an extra half hour with his friend.
There was a quiet reflective moment. And then I said again, “I hope we can be a family who will choose to be happy for each other. If something goes well for someone, let’s choose to be happy for one another. Even if we feel like we didn’t get what we want. I would love if your joy could be my joy, and if my joy could be yours. I would like to share my joy with you.”
Tucking kids into bed is hard parenting. Seriously.
But it was good reflection for me too. This is jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what others have. It is missing out on sharing our joys. And I am just as guilty as my kids. I am just as likely to measure and assess what I deserve. And I am quick to notice if I am not getting as good of a deal as someone else. But that verse in Romans has been on my mind lately. Rejoice with those who rejoice. All Christians do not need to look exactly like each other. BUT, we do need to rejoice with each other. We should celebrate each other’s accomplishments, smile when someone else is having a good day- even if we are not. It’s not always easy to rejoice with others. We are very aware of the negative in our own lives, the ‘unfairness.’ We could easily choose bitterness and jealousy, that’s our human nature. BUT wouldn’t it be beautiful, wonderful, amazing, and so much better to be able to share in someone’s joy? If we let go of having to have everything equal, what would life look like then?
Lord, forgive us for being jealous and bitter. Forgive us for thinking that if only things were equal, then we would be happy. That’s a lie. Happiness is knowing you, trusting you, and realizing that what we have is more than enough. I know that we can face truly hard times that make this hard to believe, but Lord, please reassure us now. Fill our hearts with the truth of your love. Bring peace and freedom to our lives, and help us to truly let go of our jealousies. I pray you would shine your light into these areas of our lives. And even more, I ask that we could learn to truly share in the joys of others. To rejoice with our friends and family, and especially to rejoice in who You are! In Jesus name, Amen.