It was no ordinary classroom. There were no desks, overhead projectors, or dry erase boards, just the Master seated in his chair and the bare, richly hued wood floor beneath Him. It was utterly silent and peaceful. I entered and without a word, took my place in front of Him, sitting at His feet.
I looked into His eyes as He gently smiled His welcome. He lowered His gaze to the book in His lap and closed it. Across the cover, I could see the words “IEP, Courage”. Below the title was my name. He lifted the book and returned it to its place on the shelf to be used again at another time and then chose a new volume for my lesson. I did not have to ask what the next area of study would be. I already knew. He, the author and finisher of my faith, had been preparing me for the new direction of my studies for days, priming my heart until I was eager to receive it. I broke the silence.
“Master, teach me about joy.”
“The joy of the Lord is your strength,” He replied.
“Yes, Master. I read that in Your Word but, what does that mean? How can joy equal strength? That sounds so….cryptic.”
He laughed softly and then bent over to place His hand on my face. “Oh, my child. That is so like you. You just aren’t willing to accept pleasant platitudes, are you? No. For you, it has to be real. It is not enough for you to sing, ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength’ if it doesn’t work out as truth in real life.”
“Life is too short to play games, Father” I replied. “That makes no sense to me. I don’t understand why people go to church on Sundays if they aren’t willing to let you in completely. Either You are who You are and Your Word is true, or it is not and if you can’t be trusted….well, I don’t want a god like that.”
“But you, my child, have learned I AM.” And with those words, though barely a whisper, the room shook.
I bowed my head low before Him and replied the only way I could, “Yes, Almighty One. You are all You claim to be and only you are worthy of praise.”
Tenderly, he lifted my head and cradled my face in His hand. I raised my own hand to rest on the back of His and there I felt a scar, the remant of the price He paid for my freedom.
“You know, My Father, that I love You. Now please, Rabbi….teach me about joy. I need to know, what does it mean for the joy of the Lord to be my strength?”
He settled back into His chair as I attentively watched His face. Then he said, “Joy. Lesson One. The first thing you need to understand is that the joy spoken of here comes from Me. It is different than all others and only I can give it. You must ask me for it.”
“Father,” I replied. “Give me Your joy. I will pray for it every day. It will be the cry of my heart.”
“And I will grant it,” He said. “I will never turn away the Godly prayer of one of my children, but there is more to learn and it may take awhile. Are you willing to spend the time? Are you willing to put forth some effort?”
“Yes, Rabbi. I will do whatever you require.”
“Good. I will hold you to that. This is the end of your first lesson and you have homework. Go and study the word “Joy” and read Nehemiah chapter 8. Meditate on it and then come back and we will discuss it.”
“Will you open my eyes, my God, that I might see wonderful things in your word?”
“Yes, my child. Now, go in peace.”
I rose and made my way toward the door. Then, I paused and turned to look at Him.
“Jesus, thank you for loving me, thank you for teaching me. In your presence is fullness of joy.”
And then I realized…I had just begun lesson two.