I once knew a man who I thought must personify joy.Â In some ways he did.Â He always had a smile on his face.Â He seemed to always find delight in so many things that I took for granted.
Part of me really admired his attitude.Â Then there was the other part.Â There was part of me that was irked because I knew he didn’t always understand the situation as entirely as he thought he did.Â I wasn’t sure if he was blessed in his ignorance or irksome because of it.
One day right before a long vacation, he came into my classroom to wish my students a happy break.Â He also admonished them to do a few things that highlighted his ignorance of many of their situations, wished them a Merry Christmas, and made a few other remarks.Â The students weren’t really in the mood to be admonished—rightfully or not.Â I wasn’t in the mood to be interrupted.
I remember pasting a smile on my face, answering appropriately, and being glad he kept his remarks brief.Â As he was walking out of Room 6 I prayed, “Lord, if that’s what joy looks like, I don’t think I want it.”
Thankfully I’ve matured a little since then.Â I know a stoic face may belie a joyful heart.Â I know that school administrator wasn’t just blithely walking through life.Â He experienced severe trauma and heartache in his life, but now I believe he chose to focus on God’s goodness.
In the bit that I’ve matured, I’ve been reminded repeatedly that joy isn’t necessarily a matter of what’s happening to me or around me.Â Neither is it always a choice I make–though sometimes it is.Â I’ve learned joy is a work of the Holy Spirit.Â It is evidence of his presence and work in my life (Galatians 5:22).
Sometimes I think joy is difficult for me to embody and appreciate.Â When I’m tired and sick (which is distinctly different from being sick and tired—but then, too) . . . when my schedule runs my life instead of the other way around . . . when I’ve used up every drop of extroversion within me and find no time to recharge . . . these are the times when joy is hard.
Sometimes joy is much easier.Â When I’m laughing with friends . . . when I have tickle fights with my nephews . . . when I walk into a room and am surrounded by people I love . . . when I read (and reread) an well crafted sentence . . . when I’m by the ocean without any immediate concerns . . . when I’ve slept well and spend time with God . . . when the combination of strong yet creamy coffee and rich chocolate mingle on my taste buds . . . these are times when I’m awash in joy.
When I was a senior in high school I was asked to choose a quote to express who I was and what I wanted.Â I chose William James‘ words.Â He said, “The greatest use of life is to spend if for something that will outlast it.”Â I still believe that in light of eternity.
If I had to do that senior quote over today, I think I would choose Sir Wilfred Grenfell‘s words–“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.”Â Perhaps I would combine Grenfell’s and James’ words.Â They seem to fit together.
I am privileged to spend my life serving God by serving TCKs and their families.Â And although my face may not always show it, there is joy.Â It is deep and abiding because I am grafted into its source, what I do is worthwhile, and it will last for eternity.
What brings you joy?
photo courtesy of Martin Deutsch and although it is classroom 6, it is not my classroom 6.Â We would have all suffocated in this classroom 6.
PS—I wrote a post on Joy last month here.
I’m participating in Faith Barista’s Faith Jam.Â Every week she’s asking other bloggers to “jam like musicians” on a faith related topic.Â Today’s post is my riff on “Joy: Is it easy or hard for you?.” If you’re interested in the notes others added to this Faith Jam, go check out her site and follow the links.)
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