Ever since I started teaching some English classes in my garage, we have had the neighbor kids coming by, full of curiosity. They are probably wondering, What are these foreigners up to now? Shyly they come into the garage and tap so lightly on our door that sometimes I wonder if I’m hearing things. Then as I open the door I hear the sounds of little feet shuffling away as they suddenly feel shy. Realizing they can’t hide quickly enough, they turn around, smile, and say, “Hello, neak crew (teacher).” While the government schools were on break, they would come by several times a day bringing more friends to come and see the teacher.
On one of these occasions, four of my students were visiting, and they brought two of their younger siblings. I didn’t have much in my house to entertain them with, but I did have some paper. Paper airplanes would be fun, I thought, so I got paper for each of them. The older ones followed along as I showed them how to make a paper airplane. The two younger siblings were too little to do it themselves, but they watched as I helped the others through each step. I didn’t know how to say paper airplane in Khmer, so they had no idea what they were making as they followed my folds. When we finally got to the last fold, and I showed them how my plane soared through the air, the room suddenly lit up with excitement and energy.
As they began to throw their paper airplanes in delight, I retrieved mine and gave it to the little girl who couldn’t make her own. She excitedly joined the others in the fun. The little boy was left without an airplane, so I grabbed another piece of paper and sat down on the floor to start making him one. Realizing that I was making a plane for him, he squatted down in front of me, rested his chin on both hands, and grinned one of the biggest, happiest grins I have ever seen. The joy inside him was bubbling over before he even had the plane in his hand. I finished the plane and quickly saw that he didn’t understand how to throw it to make it fly. I tried in vain to show him how, but he didn’t care. He was delighted to have his plane and to throw it the only way he knew how. For about 30 minutes the kids ran around my garage squealing and throwing their paper airplanes.
I’ll never forget that grinning little boy. He had so much joy as he anticipated what was coming. As I reflect on his beaming face, I see a picture of how I should always approach my time with Jesus. Psalm 16:11 tells us that in the presence of God is “fullness of joy.” That is not only a place I want to spend time in, it’s where I want to spend my life. Apparently, David felt the same way. In Psalm 16:8 he says, “I have set the Lord always before me.” If you’re like me, it hasn’t always been easy to approach time with God as a joy. Sometimes I get to the end of my devotions and feel like I didn’t really get anything out of it. If you struggle with feeling this way, too, then I invite you to try this with me: Next time your devotions, the Sabbath hours, or any time you set aside for Jesus seems meaningless or inconvenient, think of a look of joy you have seen on a child’s face or maybe a moment of joy that you remember in your childhood. Think about that experience and remember that God will help you to experience fullness of joy as you spend time in His presence. I believe that the Spirit of God is eagerly waiting to bring us into that fullness of joy at every opportunity we give Him.