Finding joy in our livesLatest Issue, Where's the Faith? Thursday, September 14th, 2017
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
Joy! The delight of a sunset over the ocean, walking into an air conditioned building on a hot day, spending precious time with loved ones. All of these moments can bring us a deep sense of joy and gratitude.
Can you remember some of your earliest memories when you experienced joy?
Saturday morning cartoons in my pajamas with a bowl of cereal or, even better, sugar and cinnamon toast!
Hearing the music of the ice cream truck coming down the street on a hot summer day!
Chasing fireflies on a warm summer night under the Milky Way galaxy.
It’s fun to stroll down memory lane, but not for long. Joy is not just found in the past, it’s also found in the present! And the truth is, as we all grow older our feelings and attitudes about what joy is, change over time. Joy comes and goes; it’s here one moment and gone the next.
As we mature, we recognize that change is a part of life. Like waves breaking on the beach, change is a constant in life; it’s inevitable.
Morning, by morning, it’s a constant discovery of different muscles and joints that before went unnoticed. And that’s just the physical changes. What about the changes that happen in our soul? We have an awareness of our mortality, that our days are numbered. So, the challenge facing us in the midst of constant change and pain is, to still see joy in our lives.
Jesus said to his disciples, “You will have pain, but your pain will turn to joy!” Do you believe that? Do you think the disciples believed that?
C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, had a wonderful marriage, even with all of its ups and downs. He writes about when his wife was dying of cancer and of the immediate grief he started to experience. He said to his wife, “I don’t know how I can live without you. We have had so much fun, so much joy. And now I’m already feeling so filled with sorrow … I can’t stop grieving.” His wife said to him, “Honey, you don’t get the joy without the sorrow. That’s the way it goes. It’s part of the deal.”
Henri Nouwen says, “In every smile, there’s a tear, and in every embrace there’s a little bit of a feeling of loneliness.” There are many facets to joy, aren’t there.
In the pursuit of finding joy in our lives, there’s still this fact of constant change throughout our lives. Understanding this, let’s think about three possible responses to this reality.
First, we may want to cling to every joy that comes into our life. We hold on to it so tightly fearing it may be the last joy we’ll ever encounter. William Blake said, “He who binds himself to joy, does the winged life destroy.” In other words, we can cling to joy, holding on and grasping it so tightly, that it dies right inside our hand.
We may have such a sense of joy from the past, convinced that nothing in the present can measure up to the past, “Ah, the good ol’ days!” And, as we hold on to the past, we can lose the joy in the present. There’s no greater joy than experiencing joy in the moment, in the now. Blake goes on to say, “The one who kisses the joy as it flies by, lives in eternity’s sunrise!”
The second possible response to change is the opposite of clinging to joy; it’s not allowing ourselves to experience joy at all. We guard our heart from any and all joy.
Life is not always easy. We have disappointment, we experience grief, and so, in order to protect ourselves from pain, we put up walls and shut ourselves down emotionally, leaving an ache in our heart. And given what some people go through in life, how can we blame them?
Some people try to fill that ache in their heart by abusing alcohol and drugs, looking to food or sex as a way of escape. There are so many ways we can retreat from ourselves emotionally. We might say, “If I don’t feel any joy, then I won’t feel any pain!” Shutting ourselves down emotionally is not the best response.
So, here’s a third possible response. Live fully in the moment. Live life to the fullest. Embrace it all.
And when it comes to joy, remember how the Gospel of John records how on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene was outside the tomb weeping , and asked, who she thought was the gardener, where they had taken Jesus’ body and then Jesus calls her by name, “Mary!” Oh, such incomparable joy!
Paul, even when life had him in chains and in prison, could say, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say, rejoice!”
Maybe it is possible, then, that we can kiss joy as it flies by. Why? Because we are already living in an eternity sunrise! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!
We kiss the joy as it flies by, in the form of a belly laugh, a beautiful flower, a delicious meal surrounded by loving people. All of it is somehow transformed in our eyes and we can see it all with joy, and we kiss it, and then we let it go, with gratitude.
I encourage you to live in the now, in joy. Stay connected to the source of joy; let it grow and mature in you. Jesus said, “You will have pain, yes, but your pain will turn into joy and no one can take that away from you!”
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