I'm looking out the window of my lawn right now. I love my lawn. It's not the best in my neighborhood, not even the nicest in my cul de sac. I have a crab grass issue, dead spots from flooding and a burnt spot from a bonfire - but all the same I love my lawn.

For me the lawn has represented a deeper thread for my story. I was responsible for my yard as a young teenager when my dad moved away. We never had the money, time or knowledge to manage the yard, and it never thrived under my care. My wife Kyra's dad's yard was always immaculate, so our terrible yard at our first house was a sign of negligence to her.

I used to hate my lawn. It was a place of failure, shame and frustration, a quiet voice that told me I can't or worse, He can't.

The story of my lawn over the last five years has been slow and full or grace. Arguments with my wife lessened as I grew in consistency of yard care. I began listening to my favorite music while yard working. I researched and budgeted for the proper tools and chemicals. I found myself reaching out to others for advice. Slowly a place of fear gave way to a place of confidence and finally a place of enjoyment. A place of “have-to” was transformed to a place of “get-to."

I wonder how many other places “have-to's” in my life can be transformed into “get-to's." What a powerful transformation this shift is! It is one thing to be intimidated into a life full of “have-to," barely affording time or money for the “get-to's." But even worse, how sad it would be to engage in lifetime of “get-to” opportunities such as fathering, pastoring, or home improvement through the lens of “have-to,” thus forfeiting great measures of joy.

So many times Jesus extends an invitation and the ultimate result of accepting is joy. That our joy would be whole or complete. That we would live life to the full. Eternal life is both quantitative and qualitative. Life according to Jesus should be a joy story.

Typically we see character as doing things we don't want to do because we have to. 
But Jesus' agenda for joy seems to be moving things into the “get-to” category.

When life is a “have-to” we must escape from it. When life is a “get-to” we can rest in it.

Taking a season away from full-time ministry, I shutter to think all the ministry that fell into the have-to category. The meetings, the planning, the follow up. Without His righteousness, wisdom and maturity, all responsibility is have-to.

All of this leads to a powerful question: If God gave me everything I wanted, would I have the character to enjoy it? At 31, I've just learned to steward a house without striving, comparison, stress etc. Sure, I could have done this competently as a 16-year-old, but could I have had joy doing it?

I could have planted a church at 21, but could I have enjoyed serving it without selfish ambition? Could I have done it in peace? In rest? Without competition? Without pride?

I want to live a life at the pace of my yard work--where my rate of accomplishment never exceeds my rate of joy. Where my competency doesn't outgrow my character and my “have-to” never surpasses my “get-to.” This, I believe is the Joy Story.

-- Oliver Wong, CITYLIGHTS member and speaker