Green: Why choosing joy is always the best option

Renae Green column

There’s a saying in Baptist church life: Hate the sin, love the sinner. That’s a really nice (if not a little pompous) way of saying we’re not supposed to judge people harshly. I’ve recently paraphrased that saying to apply to my current situation: Hate the dentist’s chair, love the dentist.

I went without good dental insurance for several years, so I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to take care of my teeth. After all this time, no cavities! But I did have an issue that needed to be dealt with. When I was a teen, I was in an accident and had to have a root canal on my left front tooth. Every few years, a veneer needs to be added to mask the discoloration. Since I didn’t have great insurance, I’ve gone a while without a veneer. My new dentist decided what I really needed was a cap.

On a recent visit, I lay in the dentist’s chair, white-knuckled, mouth wide open, listening to the high-pitched drills and scrapes and trying not to cry like a baby. (I did cry, but hopefully not like a baby.) Headphones piped calming praise and worship music in my ear, and I tried to mentally escape into my very best memories. It was at that point I discovered something: I don’t have enough really great memories to carry me through a two-hour dental appointment.

This needs to change.

That’s why my theme word for 2021 is joy. This year, I plan to be more intentional in creating beautiful, love-saturated, laughter-filled memories. I asked God to help me with that.

He was happy to oblige. On the first day of the new year, He sent fat, fluffy snow — the wet, sticky kind, perfect for snowmen. I was out of bed early, and I dragged Rick outside to join me. We build the perfect, fat little snow couple, complete with carrot noses and jalapeno pepper eyes and mouths. (This is Texas, after all.) Lacking a pitchfork, we added a rake and a hoe to mimic American Gothic. Then we had a snowball fight (Rick won) and I made a snow angel.

On day two of the new year, I had a different kind of joy. A dear friend — a fellow musician — recently passed away. I was asked to sing at the funeral, along with some of his other close musician friends. What a bittersweet celebration of a life well lived. As our little group joined together to offer beautiful, comforting music, I was reminded that one of these days, this is just what we’ll do. We’ll jam for Jesus, for all eternity.

Day three, the joy was more low-key. I took down the Christmas stuff mostly by myself. (Rick did help with the ornaments.) While I worked, I binge-watched Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye — a favorite show no one will ever watch with me. I put away the ornaments and decorations and recalled sweet memories attached to each one.

Today is day four, and I’m writing this article for you. And I’ve realized that I never needed a special emphasis to bring joy into my life. The joy has always been there for the taking. The lack of joy was my own fault; I’ve failed to seize far too many moments in my life.

New Year’s Day, I didn’t have to play in the snow. I could have pulled the covers over my head and stayed inside, warm and safe. But I wouldn’t have the memory. Day two, I could have focused on the sadness and overlooked the joy. Day three, I could have grumbled at all the work, instead of relishing the chance to reminisce and watch TV—something I rarely do anymore.

I’ve come to realize, in a short time, that joy is a decision I make each and every day. From now on, when given the choice, I will choose joy every single time. I still don’t love the dentist’s chair. But next time I have to sit in it, I’ll come prepared.

“These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full,” John 15:11.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly perfect children, and far-too-many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.