Down in My Heart

Ben Schoettel   -  


As we are now a week away from Christmas, we are about 3 whole months passed the peak of Fall décor. I know… I am the last one to claim to be an expert on this topic… but hang in there. My wife is an avid gardener, which in this case meant we had an awesome abundance of our own, homegrown, pumpkins. Real pumpkins make a great Fall decoration, and if you time it right, can also provide you with some great late-Fall snacks. If you end up ignoring the later idea, what you end up with by this time of year is what? Mush. But believe it or not… there is one real pumpkin that still remains on our front porch, with no mush or rot in sight. The reason? Paint. Our son did an art project for school where they completely covered the outside of their pumpkin with color. So, there sits right next to the light up Snoopy and Christmas lights sits a boy’s prized project. What is my point? The outside might look just as good as it did months ago… but at the end of the day… or week… or months… it is still a real pumpkin. And real pumpkins eventually rot. In the case of the painted pumpkin though, the inside problems don’t quite match the colorful shine on the surface.


There is an old Sunday School song that goes “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where?!? Down in my heart!” Sure, it seems like a simple nursery rhyme, but the message is in fact quite important.


Paul talks a lot about joy in his letters to the Church. To the Romans he wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) This passage speaks to the heart of joy. God does not show us or shower us in joy, God fills us with joy. If we want to live a life of joy, we can’t see it as something we can add to the surface of our lives, it has to start “down in our hearts.” That is why another joy mention from Paul is equally important.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) We see here that joy is an essential bi-product of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We don’t put on joy… joy grows out of a heart that is touched and transformed by God. I am not minimizing any experiences that we feel joy in the sense of happiness, those are great and should be celebrated, but they are a bi-product of God’s goodness in some way. And when those joyful moments are harvested from our lives in connection with the Holy Spirit, they are life-giving!


That is why the famous description from John Wesley on his transformative relationship with God is so important to ponder. He “felt his heart strangely warmed.” That is not a person that found a way to look better. That is not a person that found a good distraction. That is a person who felt and experienced the Holy Spirit at work, from the inside out. And at that moment, externally nothing magical seemed to happen, but his life was forever changed. Now that the seed of the Spirit finally made its way through the hardness of sin and into the depths of his heart, the love of God immediately began to grow. The joy that grew out of the life of Wesley is the same joy God desires to grow out of all our lives. When this type of joy is embodied, we can see every moment as a fresh opportunity to give and received the love of God, in sacrificial and yet also satisfying ways. We can see our lives through the lens of God’s Kingdom, and instead of asking ourselves, “what is wrong here, and how can I make it look or feel better?” we begin to ask, “What is God doing here, and how can I fully experience it?”


When we live out that joy through acts of love… we can’t help but sow seeds that the Holy Spirit will take and drive deeper and deeper into the hearts of those around us, until they too experience that new life  root.