Updated: Aug 4, 2019
If you've spent any time at a WildFire event or been around KKi for any time then no doubt you've heard this phrase. 'Bringing joy to daddy's heart' isn't just a helpful practice with a nice strap-line, but rather an underpinning value of all that we do & it is taken straight from the life that Jesus modelled for us... "The one who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him." (John 8:29) This is a recurring theme in John's gospel; that the express desire of Jesus is "to do the will of him who sent me" (6:38). It seems that when people read this they often end up getting the wrong end of the stick - or grabbing a different stick altogether. The concept of 'doing the will of God' to many in modern society often ends up as 'being controlled' or 'becoming religious' but this is miles removed from Jesus' intention & indeed what Jesus lived out.
If we sit Jesus' words within the culture and tradition he was addressing we get a rather different picture. For the Jewish community, everything was underpinned by the Torah; foundational texts that defined their world-view. The Torah kicks off with an invitation from God for humanity to co-create with him, to help shape creation alongside him, to share in his divinity - his image. From the word go you can trace this invitation being extended repeatedly throughout the Old Testament even through human kind turning their back on God, exchanging God-defined morality for human defined morality & co-creation for a sub-standard milieu of half-backed creativity tinged with death and destruction.
So, when Jesus talks about doing the will of God we shouldn't & mustn't imagine some domineering oligarch demanding servitude. Instead, when we read these words, we read an invitation. If God's purpose was for us to partner with him in co-creating & Jesus came to restore us to the fullness of life that we'd been missing out on, then this invitation is an invitation to parter with the King of the universe in creating the best artistic masterpiece ever known; the most intricate symphony, the grandest sculpture. Jesus enters headlong into creating alongside his Daddy in Heaven & in doing so does His Daddy's will.
The idea of creating alongside God broadens our conception of the Christian vocation - for sure, it is preaching, caring for the poor & healing the sick but its also being at the cutting edge of sustainable architecture, cross cultural culinary fusion & being a good Mum!
But here is the crunch... why are we doing it?
All of the above activities are great but if we lose a solid grasp of why we are doing them we run the risk of getting lost in activity, glorying in our own ingenuity, comparison with others, jealousy, idolatry, boredom & activity for the sake of activity... before we know it all our activity and good intentions have reduced us to living well below what we were designed for.
That's where this foundational question comes in - "Daddy, how do I bring joy to your heart today" - it refocuses us - it reminds us that our priority is to minister to The Lord - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5/Matt 22:37). That is with the way you think & what takes up your head-space, your drives/passions & your position/influence/finance.
It's easy, especially when leading as part of 'missions organisation' to get lost in doing, it can almost become compulsive & that is where it gets unhealthy. Acts of service are a genuine way of showing love, it's loving with our strength, but it's only one expression. Service classically sits alongside quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation & physical touch. Now obviously these are to be applied to human relationships but it's quite easy to see how they can be analogous in part to our love relationship with The Lord (as those two relationships always are).
It's clear from the life of Jesus, from scripture & from our own experience that The Father loves us to spend quality time (QT) with us - sometimes He just wants us to be still & know that He is God. He wants that just as any parent loves a cuddle & some QT with their little ones but He also wants to be loved and love us in this way because it's good for us - children who don't have good QT with their parents, particularly during key developmental stages, often miss out, at least initially, on becoming a well rounded person. We also know that The Lord loves to hear our praise & worship & that He even 'inhabits' or makes Himself especially present within such atmospheres (Psalm 22:3) - which again is a good place for us to be.
It would be so easy to have one of these at the expense of the others & it can, of course, be inverse to the typical activity driven life sketched out above - we may spend time falling into the trap of singing nice songs and meditating but not pursuing justice for the oppressed (check out the prophetic literature in the Old Testament to see how much joy that doesn't bring to the Lord's Heart).
In any relationship, we need communication. 'Darling, how can I best love you right now?' is a pretty helpful question for any family's health. So, thinking about it, to not ask God similar questions would be rather odd for anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus. We know there are ways of being & doing or even not doing that bring joy to God's heart but how do we stay focussed and committed to those ways? How do we maintain a balance that is healthy without duty bound religious activity or spiritual sloppiness and sloth? How do we pick up on specific, strategic, co-creative fun-filled nuances of the invitation that are meant especially for us and for today - we ask!
Now here's the kicker of all this, when we ask "Daddy, how can I bring joy to your heart today?' and we make time and space to hear his response & then we act on it, we are pulled closer in to to who he is - "He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him". It is not that when we miss the mark and don't please Him that He leaves us and forgets about us. Rather, when we please Him by co-creating with Him, in grand projects or in the quiet worship and adoration of our heart where we help Him to make us into everything we're created to be, in those places He is made manifest (more present) in us and through us. As we bring joy to His heart through accepting the invitation we take our place as the image of God on earth; His representation to the rest of creation. When we take this position it becomes even more natural to ask the question "Daddy, today, how is it that I best bring you Joy" and so we're pulled into closer communion, greater humanity - again, it becomes more natural to ask... a beautiful upward cycle of becoming more like our Daddy through bringing him joy.
Best way to start the day!
It is only from this place of bringing Him joy as our priority that we come to know him in a deep & intimate way, that we then very naturally begin to transform the world around us; without striving, mixed motivation or mindless programmed activity. We then begin to find that it is the same joy of the Father permeating through us, becoming our strength, as we go out into all the world and #RaiseTheJoyLevel
So, how about it? Set your alarm, wake up and then either alone or as a family spend some time asking Daddy in heaven how you can bring him joy today - then again at the end of the day, ask the Lord how you did at bringing him joy and maybe share together, encourage, give thanks for the day & pray for one another for the following day!
"Do not think that saintliness comes from occupation; it depends rather on what one is. The kind of work we do does not make us holy, but we make it holy" (Meister Eckhart, 14th Century Mystic).