I’ve been thinking about joy a great deal lately. I have found myself caught quite deeply by joy for a bit of time now, joy that has been an amazing and unexpected gift, joy that snuck up on me when I truly least expected it, joy that came in guises that I could never have imagined, and in part as the result of events I thought would devastate me. It's an odd thing to find oneself immensely joyful after living in deep and at times unrelenting pain for almost two and a half years. It is a weird feeling to wake up each morning without anxiety but instead with anticipation for the adventures and connections with loved ones that may be coming that day. It feels strange and foreign to go on long walks alone and instead of feeling lonely or scared, to feel so at peace with the world that I find myself dancing down the path. It feels surprising and unexpected that I am silly with my children daily, constantly, once again, not out of a sense of desperately needing a good laugh, but out of utter and complete delight in being with these incredibly beautiful, precious people.
It has taken me a long time to get here, and yet at the same time, I feel like it came on quite suddenly in some ways. I've been released. I've been set free. I have come back to me after being caught in a storm of craziness and crazy making. Anger is gone. Fear is dispersed. Instead there is peace, joy, purpose, and a journey to walk with God and with God's people.
It's not that I'm always in this space. There are moments of depression still, there are times when I grieve and feel the many losses I've experienced in these last years. There are still moments (though they are very rare) of anger, moments of feeling that dangerous self-righteousness that could have the potential of leading to lashing out (which always does more harm than good). But they are few, and farther between each day. I've moved to a different place. I am happy more than I am not. I am hopeful more than despairing. I am at peace more than in a turmoil of regrets. I am deeply, deeply grateful for every smile that comes my way, every kind word or connection, each joke that appears in my email box, the quirky behavior in a loved one, strong hugs, the gentle breath of the wind, rays of sunshine, the booming of thunder. I am beyond grateful for my loving friends and amazingly grace-filled community, for the children who light up my days, for a sense of meaning and purpose in my work.And the additional gift that has come from this joy is a deep recognition that joy really is about grace. It is a gift given by God that one cannot anticipate, cannot summon, cannot create. It is a gift that we can receive if we are open, if we pray, if we look for God around us. God wants to give us this gift, and gives it despite whatever else is happening in our lives. But it is found in unexpected places, and at unexpected times. It shows its face sometimes through pain, sometimes even because of pain, sometimes as a result of the things we fear the most and think will destroy us. Always, it is a gift that we cannot expect but which is given in spite of and despite ourselves. Joy is like the butterfly that suddenly landed in front of Jasmyn and I during our walk a little over a year ago now - showing itself when we could not envision its appearance. We took in the gift of that appearance because we had eyes to see it. And those eyes, too, are a gift of grace, a gift from God. Thank you, God, for this gift of joy. May we all look for it, see it, be open to it, and receive it with gratitude.