Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 6: Joy

As I sit down this evening to write about joy, I find myself feeling a bit anxious. How does one write about joy?

When I think of my experiences of joy in life, they have been quite distinct from my experiences of happiness.

Happiness seems to be more of an emotion, a feeling that springs up when something goes right - when the weather is beautiful, when a goal is attained, when an experience has been fun or satisfying. Happiness is invariably a "good" feeling - an emotional state that we quite naturally seek out for the pleasure it gives us.

When viewed this way, happiness seems to be dependent on specific experiences. And experiences, we know, are quite changeable in this life. Like the tide with its ebb and flow, the happiness felt in one moment may ebb away from us long before we want it to. The sunset was so beautiful...but now it is gone. The gathering of friends or family was so much fun...but now it is over. Life quickly returns in all of its ordinariness.

Happiness may also be snatched away at any moment, often quite arbitrarily. Everything was proceeding quite happily until...the drunk driver came speeding down the street...the phone rang and they told me...I had a sudden pain in my chest...and so on.

We can increase our chances of experiencing happiness - and often spend much of our lives engaged in this endeavor - but we cannot seem to control its disappearance. It may gradually slip through our fingers or it may be brutally torn out of our hands, but its impermanence is inevitable.

Joy, however, is different.

People speak of joy when they hold their newborn child for the first time. Or when they sit in silence with someone they love deeply. Yet how are these experiences any different? These moments are just as fleeting as all of the others in this life. The child grows up and the love may grow cold...

These experiences we call joy are, I believe, just glimpses of the Eternal for which we all long, whether we are aware of it or not. In fact, Joy itself is a longing, both fulfilled and waiting to be fulfilled, a perpetual dance. It is a longing for the Love that doesn't stop, but continues to empty itself only to be filled yet again.

Joy knows the truth of the Love, even when love is not felt. It is a Truth deeper than the knowledge of my mind or the perception of my senses, known profoundly even in times of pain or emotional dullness.

Joy is my soul resting in God, even when I cannot see or sense that God is there.

Joy is an eternal hope, a growing peace, a gift given in grace and mercy. Joy is a love renewed continually in our hearts by the heart of the living God.

May you ever know Joy...

(You are invited to share your reflections, images or poetry relating to this series, as instructed here.)