Her name is Natalie Joy.
When I first met her this weekend at the Winsome Retreat in Pennsylvania I observed the most delightful woman. Smiling. Bright spirited. Joy filled. I thought to myself, surely, her name suits her well.
But later on she shared her story with me and I learned that life for Natalie has not always been filled with joy. She’s suffered a great deal, in fact, when a marriage she loved for many years ended in divorce. Natalie describes this painful season with a quake in her voice, still searching for all the right words to wrap around this hallowed ground.
It is ground, I believe, because the most raw moments in life feel so much like dirt; barren and black. And yet we know that it is only from the barren and black earth that a seed can grow.
New life emerges if the conditions are right.
The conditions, though, are often like a season of drought under the hot, sweltering sun. We know what is needed. Cleansing Rain. But the fiery trial is unrelenting, leaving us withered and tired. Where O’ where is the rain?
“I’ve discovered that when everything is taken away, when nothing is left but the core of who you are, that’s when you have to make a choice. I can either hide inside and let the fear of getting stuck by lightning paralyze me, or I can stand out in the rain to be washed free of everything but the comfort of a God who would never let me fall. I choose every day to be washed free.” -Sara Frankl
We find the rain in Isaiah 54 when the “barren” woman is encouraged to sing. We feel her pain because her barrenness is like ours. It’s every unmet longing and unanswered prayer. It’s every choking circumstance and dreadful disease. It’s every betrayal linked to our deepest fear. To sing while still and yet barren is choosing to receive the Cleansing Rain.
“Sing, O barren woman…” -Isaiah 54:1
We find the rain in John 11 when Jesus who is deeply troubled and moved in spirit rolls the stone away and calls his dead friend Lazarus to come out.
“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” -Jesus
But not everyone who sees believes. For it is written that some scoff Jesus for allowing death and suffering (vs. 37) while others decide to see its purpose through the lens of abiding love (vs. 36). And the same is true for you and me: to see and believe in Love while the sting still and yet burns is choosing to receive the Cleansing Rain.
Barrenness knows of its need. Stones keep from proceeding. What response will we choose while we wait for the miracle?
When Natalie looked down at the divorce decree she stared at the empty box awaiting an inky name. She says she knew in that moment that she needed to choose a new name: Joy. It was the only way to begin again. The conditions were right.
(Side Note: Needing to define your joy and clarify your purpose? Check out Natalie’s business here.)