When Did My Heart Stop Singing: The Place I found My Joy

Thy presence fills my mind with peace,
Brightens the thoughts so dark erewhile,
Bids cares and sad forebodings cease,
Makes all things smile.
— Charlotte Elliott

I took a long walk the other day.

I didn’t need distraction or exercise.

I didn’t have an agenda.

Instead, I felt a sudden pull to be outdoors surrounded by the beauty of creation.

I am so glad I listened.

I left my music at home because sometimes it tends to wrestle against the sounds of nature, so my five senses were left to wonder and my aging rescue dog, with an arthritic limp, kept us zigzagging from one side of the road to the other.

I enjoyed following him because his excitement was contagious.

It had been a long time since I had taken a walk for the straightforward joy of it, free from the pressurizing tug of progress.

That realization surprised me. I felt a little sad, like something was being wasted.

As we made it further down the road, my imagination seemed to awaken from a deep sleep and I could have sworn that my dog was smiling.

He kept stopping every few feet to look back at me as if to say, “thank you” causing me to stumble in the middle of the road. I laughed, awkwardly as if to say, “you're welcome” in response.

I felt desperate to take it all in, the sunset’s red, the towering green trees and the sound of rushing water pouring from an old drainpipe.

I followed the sound, which had me on my tiptoes, leaning over the edge of a narrow creek that was hiding behind some overgrown vines. Dozens of invisible creatures were making noises inside their safe refuge.

The fresh air was intoxicating and my breathing became a bit erratic as I attempted to identify every emerging bloom by it’s unique scent. I made note of each observation out loud, like someone set on remembering the details of a thing.

I had forgotten how healing nature is when it is taken in like this. I had forgotten how important it is to simply do the things that I love without always expecting worldly gain.

Not everything should be done for reasons that can later be measured.

Kids are good at this; they carry this unmixed talent for nonprofit activities with them and almost everything that they do is marked with pure enthusiasm that remains clear of grownup ambition.

That makes children great artists, because their work originates from a place of freedom.

It seems that the further away I get from my own childhood, the more I feel pressured to use the steps of my journey to advance me towards something “bigger”, rather than returning over and over again to the place where my heart tasted Joy.

Months ago I began to have this awkward feeling of grief, as if I had lost something of value, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was.

I kept myself busy amid the pangs by constantly checking off an invisible list as if my life was an overnight suitcase, making sure that everything was accounted for.

It all seemed to be there.

But why had it become so difficult to enjoy the things that I love? If the Joy of the Lord is my strength, then why did I feel neither strong nor joyful?

It was in a moment of clarity, on our little afternoon stroll, that I recognized the evidence of discontentment that had forced it’s way into many of my everyday thoughts.

I caught myself red handed, rolling around in dissatisfaction and grumbling low concerning my circumstance. I realized that rolling around and grumbling low had become a sort of cadence, a soul-dividing noise.

When did my heart stop singing?

Discontentment speaks doubt in Christs goodness leaving us feeling abandoned by Him. It takes a strong hold of the good gifts that He has given us and convinces us that they are useless where we are, that we must strive for more than we have been given.

It is constantly stealing moments, like an afternoon with the family, that quickly becomes heavy with guilt because we didn’t get something else done. It takes the joy out of the things we truly love, like long walks surrounded by nature.

I knew what had been lost.

I had lost the simple satisfaction of being with Jesus.

Walking with Him without agenda, zigzagging from one place to another while trusting Him from a place of rest. Working, loving and living from a place of freedom, where true artistry finds is wings.

Taking long walks has now become something that I look forward to with great enthusiasm.

It has become my little way of taking time out of each day to remind myself that it is important to enjoy my life and most importantly to remember that true satisfaction comes from Christ alone.

When we are satisfied in Him we can’t help but sing!

I must remember to keep my eyes on the Lord while living in a world that measures everything by effort, including my worth. I must always be about holding on to Joy by holding on to Him.

He is the place that I return to over and over again, because I have tasted Joy.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
— Psalm 34:8 (ESV)

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