Coats: The Joy-Killer
A couple weeks ago, we were given this sign as a housewarming gift by one of our good friends. I love the look of it and the sentiment. But joy isn’t something we can choose, is it?
Isaiah, my son, hates coats. I don’t know where the depth of loathing comes from, but he and coats just don’t get along no matter what we try. On Tuesday when it was time to leave for school the temperature was hovering around 35 degrees.
“Okay guys, get your shoes and socks on and grab your coats and backpacks so we can head to school,” I said.
“What?! Why do I have to wear a coat? Coats are so stupid!” Isaiah whined/argued.
Then coat-depression set in. He grabbed his coat, and dragging it behind him sulked off to the car. I asked him to actually put it on and that didn’t go over well either. That’s when the sign hanging above our door popped into my mind.
“Isaiah, this would be a great time to practice choosing to be joyful,” I suggested.
“Why? What do I have to be joyful about? I have to wear a coat!” he retorted.
“Well, we all had a warm place to sleep last night (I was thinking about the family we interacted with the night before who were trying to find ways to get into a motel instead of sleeping in their car (thanks to some really generous people we got this covered for a while)), we have lots of family and friends who love us, you get to go to school and learn and many kids don’t get to do that, we had a great time reading together last night…those are a few reasons you could be joyful,” I replied.
“But I hate wearing coats!”
To Isaiah’s credit, he is amazing at getting over things and pulling it together. By the time we got to school (about two minutes) he smiled at me and said, “I love you daddy!” on his way out the door. Coats seem like a weak reason to have your day ruined (or even part of it), but bills, illness, or Broncos losses are legit reasons, right?
The last thing I want to do is demean the depth of struggle many people in the world face or discredit real issues like depression. Sometimes it’s really hard (maybe impossible) to choose joy. At the same time, I know that I allow my circumstances to control my attitude and approach to life far too easily at times.
When I lived in Jamaica as a teenager I saw inordinate amounts of joy from people who had next to nothing. I watched an older man at my former church exude joy as he walked through cancer and eventually into death. Paul and Silas sang songs of joy as they sat chained to a wall in a prison.
Sometimes my excuses for not choosing joy start to seem about as legit as wearing a coat.