Imprints of Joy

I have been blessed with some healthy, youthful genetics. It was something I definitely took for granted and maybe even resented at times in my twenties. They are the kind of genetics that caused (and still cause) people to mistake me for a much younger age than I actually am. Sometimes it irked me, but as I hit my thirties, I gained an appreciation for those genes, and no longer feel inclined to complain.

Society worships youth and youthfulness. This is painfully apparent in Hollywood, the magazine covers in the checkout line at the grocery stores, and the foolish young people in places of political influence. But youth doesn’t last, so people spend a lot of time trying to erase or postpone the effects of time and age, whether it be lines on the face, sagging of skin, or greying of hair. But a couple of months ago, I noticed the existence of some faint, new lines around my eyes and near my mouth, and I smiled. Grinned, actually.

Those lines deepened.

I smiled, because it occurred to me that those lines appeared on my face over the last few months or a year because of joy, because of happiness, because of laughter. In the last year, God has filled my life with so much of those things that they left their permanent imprint, a forever reminder of God’s goodness in giving joy.

It is rather twisted that people, women in particular, want to stave off the visual imprints of happiness and laughter. Rather than embracing the evidence of the joy God has placed in their lives, women mourn the “marring” of their features. But I think there is just about nothing as beautiful as a joyful face, sparkling eyes crinkled up with a smile, and when the smiles have been frequent enough and the crinkles deep enough, they never completely go away.

Proverbs 17:22 says that a joyful heart is good medicine, and Proverbs 15:13 says that a glad heart makes a cheerful face. Galatians 5 lists joy as the second of the fruit of the spirit. Joy is a gift from God, and is a natural result of a relationship with Him.

I think back over the last several years, and the deep, pervasive loneliness and depression I struggled with, the feelings of isolation and lack of belonging. Then I think over the last year, and in spite of some of the hardest of circumstances, I have never loved as deeply, or smiled and laughed as much. God used my loneliness and depression to help me find contentment, and then to bring me to a place of greater joy than I would have had, had I not walked through those difficult times. To have had so much rich purpose infused into my life and to be truly convinced of God’s good purpose and plan while seeing the fruit of patience and contentment, has been so refreshing and healing. And to have a life partner with whom I can laugh, and laugh some more, and the sight of whom brings a smile to my face, so much of a smile that the smile never completely goes away….What a gift.

So when you look in the mirror and are tempted to regret the passing of time, instead thank your Maker you’ve had so much to smile about that that smile lingers next to your eyes and at the corners of your mouth, and embrace those little imprints of joy, those reminders of how richly you’ve been blessed!

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