Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Katie Snipes Lancaster
I have no greater joy than this,
to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4
A Look at Joy
I know people who retain their joy no matter how dismal and difficult their situation. Their lives contain more than average adversity but they manage to somehow retain a genuine joy. It’s not that they deny their hardships. Rather they do not let these misfortunes conquer their ability to appreciate life. Within them a deep river of gladness flows on and on. Nothing stops or drains its movement. I think the secret to this lies in what Mary Oliver writes in her poem “Mindful.”
I see or I hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over
We learn from this excerpt of Oliver’s poem that joy doesn’t hang around without a little effort to keep it there. People with genuine joy deliberately find something, however small, that draws forth gratitude, pleasure, wonder, and love within each day. This view is reinforced in one of Etty Hillesum’s letters written while she was a twenty nine year old Jew interned at Westerbork, less than a year before being killed in Auschwitz’s death camp. The following quote reflects her on-going ability to find something that still allowed her to retain a particle of joy.
I’ve just read this about Paula Modersohn-Becker: “A deeply unexpectant attitude toward life was in her blood, something that was, in fact, a genuine expression of a supreme expectation: disregard of all things external thanks to an instinctive perception of one’s own riches and a secret, not entirely explicable, inner happiness.
Joy is not something to be forced. It is not a fake, paste-on-a-smile sort of thing. Joy comes when one is ready for it to rise. I agree with Mary Oliver. We are born for this. It is a matter of whether or not we are willing to slow down our rapid pace and change old habits of non-awareness. Each day now when I wake in the morning I whisper to my deeper self: “You were born for joy.” (And so are you).
(Joyce Rupp, “Born for Joy” from her reflections found at joycerupp.com).
O Hidden God, revealed in the ordinary work of this day,
draw forth gratitude, pleasure, wonder and love within
so that we might see you.