The Link Between Love and Joy ~ Or, How An Attitude Adjustment Changes Everything
I’ve been irritable lately. Really Irritable. I have disliked the way I have felt, and how I have reacted to life’s little “irritations.” I have felt dry. Used up. The joy has been missing, and at times, I have feared it would never return. I think about myself often, more often than I should. Chronic pain and the disabilities that have come from two brain surgeries have coalesced to make me feel needy…desiring to be taken care of rather than meeting the needs of others.
But the Lord is good. He knows what I have need of, before I do. He knows that love is a much better feeling than irritation. And He knows that love and joy go hand in hand.
Last week my doctor told me my normally normal blood pressure was even better than usual (low normal). It was the second or third time in a few months we have noticed this phenomenon. I thought about it later, as I was holding my five-month-old puppy Annie on my lap. My feeling of love for her brought about a physical sensation. I felt myself relax, and pleasure hormones bounced around in my brain and flowed through the rest of my body. I remembered that studies show people who have pets have lower blood pressure.
In the months since we brought our puppy home, my husband has taken to putting on his shoes at the dining room table. We have baby gates up, and this protects him from our little furry four-legged friend tugging at shoestrings and grabbing socks. Many times, he doesn’t push the chair back under the table when he is done.
It should be noted that my husband suffers from ADHD. He also takes a high level of statin drugs since he suffered a massive heart attack a decade ago. A side-effect of taking statins is a decline in short-term memory. He has to write things down or rely on Siri. He also relies on me to remind him of little things, like pushing in a chair. He still manages to keep forty employees working seven days a week and runs a company single-handedly while taking care of me. You can tell I am very proud of him.
But I am irritable lately. I have asked him several times to try to remember to push the chair back in. He is in such a rush to get off to work that he jumps up, grabs his keys, and promptly forgets.
Yesterday, he was leaving for work, and as he came out of the dining room I noticed that chair. Again. It was sitting away from the table (I know…big deal). I felt that familiar wave of irritation. I know intellectually that he literally does not remember. He is not doing this purposely to irritate me. And yet…there are my feelings.
Suddenly, it was like the Lord Himself stopped me from speaking what was on my mind. A still, quiet voice penetrated my irritation. The words flowed into my mind like water flowing over a smooth stone in the creek near our cabin. “Love would just push the chair in for him.” I thought about the Scripture that says, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). Compassion for my husband and his memory problems filled my heart. Suddenly, feelings of love replaced feelings of irritation. The sensations of love I felt while holding my puppy flowed through me for my husband. He left for work that morning with a kiss instead of a harsh reminder.
I feel ashamed of myself when I know I have been acting crabby. I know there is a reason for my feelings, but I also know that my husband needs my love as much as I need his. I’m so thankful for the gift we have of the Holy Spirit, who shines the light of truth in our hearts, and changes us, moment by moment. Love heals, and I need that…much more so than an easier life or less physical pain. My husband is and has always been my soft place to fall. I want to be that for him as well. And with something as simple as an attitude adjustment, my joy returned.