I stood on the escalator next to him, one hand on the rail, as we rose higher to the upper level. It felt so grand to be in such a fine place: the children’s department at The Emporium’s. It wasn’t a place where we usually bought our clothes, but today was different. It was one of my father’s first visits after the divorce. I was excited because he said I could pick out whatever I wanted.
My father shuffled beside me with his greased-up hair, baggy pants, and wiry legs moving in sync with my curiosity. He would pull out something random off the shelves. This is pretty . . . you like?
Then I saw it.
Hanging up high, perched on a special display, was the most beautiful outfit I ever saw: a soft bubble-gum pink corduroy jacket with silver buckles and matching pants. It was perfect. It looked amazing to me. Which one should I get — the jacket or the pants?
As I stood there tippy-toed, reaching up to fish the outfit down, my father told me to stand still and placed the outfit in front of me with one arm shot straight out, eyeing me like an old woman threading a needle.
“Turn around,” he said, pressing the sleeves against my wrists. “It fits. Daddy will buy both for you.”
As I stood there at the checkout register, watching my father pay, I couldn’t believe it. The whole outfit? My heart was bursting, full of something beautiful. It was new, and it was all for me.
Never in a thousand years would I have guessed I’d never have the chance to wear that jacket and those pants out in broad daylight.
When I got home and tried it on in front of the mirror in the hallway, I thought it fit perfectly, but I could tell from my mother’s eyes that this was the furthest thing from the truth.
“You look ridiculous,” she spat.
After dinner, my momma took whatever leftover gunk was found in the sink and dumped it on top of my pink outfit that she’d thrown away, with the tags still hanging off of it. I stood there in that gloomy kitchen devastated.
I don’t have anything good anymore. It’s gone. I felt so lonely. Something I thought was perfect and mine was no longer any good.
Maybe this is when I first learned how completely lonely it feels to hope for joy and how hoping for it meant leaving room for disappointment.
It’s easy when you’re young to believe dreams can come true. But if you’ve ever truly had a perfect moment carry you to a place of belief — whether it was a positive pregnancy test, a romance, a friendship, a parent, your health, a career, or a life-long dream — and then had it taken away, then you know what it feels like to see something perfect end up in the refuse of broken dreams and mismatched opportunities. You begin to wonder whether anything is worth delighting in again.
Is anything really worth enjoying if it can’t last anyway?
Rest and joy can feel dangerous. For some of us, joy is connected to times when it was ruined, when a simple moment of happiness was decimated by a person, place, or thing. After that incident, I didn’t feel like I needed joy.
Then Jesus caught me in an unguarded moment and said, I was there, Bonnie. I stood beside you as you cried. As you looked into the garbage and saw something you loved being destroyed, I was there. And I’m here with you now.
Jesus called to mind a man who was battered, imperfect, and bruised. When the young man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him a story of a person lying half dead on the side of the road — a man no one stopped to pay any attention to, except the Good Samaritan. I remembered how Jesus said that precious oil and wine were splurged onto this man’s wounds, and that’s when I realized that joy and rest were the oil and wine missing from my life.
I once thought that the wounded stranger in that story was someone else, but now I understood that joy-wounded stranger was me. That man was carried to a place to rest, and Jesus said to my heart, I will never run out of rest for you, Bonnie. No matter how much you need, no matter how long it takes, I will care for you.
Jesus understands the wounds where joy has been demolished. Your wounds are not invisible to Him, and He has an abundance of joy and rest to pour into them. Jesus calls us to create space — to slow down and nurture our souls so He can fill us.
Your story will be different from mine, but you might have a pink outfit story too where joy was lost. God can help you recover the courage to reach up again and ask for joy — to choose joy. Let’s give ourselves permission to be real, to go beyond surviving, to uncover what feeds our soul today. You are worthy of joy.
“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 (NASB)