I have to admit that it’s been an exhausting month. I feel very tired, very stretched — very wiped out and washed up… But believe it or not, I’m quite encouraged by this! Feeling exhausted and stretched is, in my opinion, a considerable improvement from feeling dark and depressed. I’ve been consciously and consistently fighting to overcome my "November blues" for the last four weeks or so — and by and large, I’d have to say that it’s been a successful campaign. I really have discovered genuine joy in this season, and I can sincerely claim gratitude for things God has given me in the month of November. It’s much bigger and deeper than oliebollen and documentaries. It’s an abiding sense of joy and fulfillment — a sense of God’s goodness and His active involvement in my life. More than just "putting lipstick on a pig" or "making the most of a bad situation" — I feel that I have discovered a true revelation of the true Joys of November.
But it hasn’t just dropped in my lap.
I’ve had to work hard to overcome the negative patterns of thought and keep my focus on the joys instead. And in the process, I’ve worn myself out. Over this last week or so, especially, I’ve felt completely drained, nothing left in the tank. At times, I’ve worried that my November blues have caught up with me (and who knows — they still might!). Every now and then, I’ve felt that familiar feeling of dread and darkness coming over me again. But then, time and time again, I’ve refocused my attention on God and the beautiful parts of His Creation, and I’ve found my hope renewed. As silly as it might sound to some people, this month of seeking the Joys of November has been a very spiritual experience for me. As the month has progressed, I’ve experienced profound joy (though not always happiness — as I believe these two oft-presumed synonyms are actually quite distinct). It has not been a month without times of sadness and heaviness (if I claimed this, you could be quite certain that my November was merely a month of denial)… But I have not allowed the month to be characterized by these heavier emotions. And when all of the human emotions can be given their proper place on the spectrum, a sense of joy and deep contentment can be savored, like a fine wine, in the overview.
This morning, I was riding my bike and listening to some of Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas songs (now that it’s post-Thanksgiving) on my headphones. When the old, old song "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" came on, I found myself deeply moved — even choked up — by its old, familiar tune and its profound lyrics (the first and third verses, particularly):
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love…
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
This is, in essence, been my experience over the last month (with still two more days to go in the month of November). It’s felt like back-breaking mine-shaft tunneling at times, but I’ve struck a vein of rich, precious joy-ore — and I intend to mine it for all its worth.