Friday, September 24, 2021
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Do not worry about anything,
but in everything
by prayer and supplication
let your requests
be made known to God.
A Look at Joy
Joy is something you taste, you touch, you glimpse—and then you have this certainty it’s going to keep coming your way and it’ll never run out. It’s something you never get the whole of. There’s always more to come. The best is yet to come. That’s the joy of Easter: tangible, forgiving, growing. Easter is about discipline and joy. The Christian life is about balancing the two. It’s about the discipline of joy.
My father and mother met in Switzerland in the summer of 1955. My father’s family was used to taking vacations in the Alps, and on this occasion there wasn’t much left of the family that wasn’t married off and heavy with child, so my father who by this time was 33 and had been ordained in the Church of England for five years, had resorted to taking a vacation with his widowed mother, who wasn’t the most lively company and wasn’t a particularly energetic walker. So he was eager to make conversation, and at the next door table found a brother and sister.
My mother’s brother had won a competition for which the prize was a week’s vacation in the Swiss Alps. My mother and father quickly found plenty to say to one another and were quite happy just looking at each other when there wasn’t much to say and were delighted to find that they both had London addresses back home.
Six weeks later my father went to visit my mother’s parents for Sunday high tea. After an hour my grandparents rather implausibly found that they were called away to business elsewhere. My father took his chance. Undaunted by having known my mother only six weeks, he got down on one knee in the time-honored fashion and said, “Ruth, my dear, will you marry me?” “Yes!” replied my mother, excitedly, “But.”
And then at this most cliffhanger of moments the doorbell rang. It turned out that the neighbors were so intrigued by the appearance of the nice young man and the disappearance of the parents that they couldn’t help but visit to find out what was going on. It took a good half-hour to mollify their curiosity with platitudes.
Finally the front door closed behind them. My father, having spent the previous half-hour beside himself with anxious curiosity, turned to my mother and said, “Well?” My mother opened wide her big brown eyes and said, “Well what?” “You said ‘Yes, but…'” said my father. “What was the ‘but’?” My mother paused and said, “I can’t remember.”
They’d had a moment of joy. They then had what seemed like an unendurable time of discipline getting used to the joy. By the time of discipline was over, no one could remember the “But.” That’s Easter. That’s the fifty days of Easter. Living out the joy until you can’t remember the “But.” That’s the discipline of joy.
(Excerpted from Samuel Wells’ essay “The Discipline of Joy” in The Journal for Preachers, Easter 2011)
God of highest mountains and lowest valley, disciple us today,
toward a joy that is not just-within-reach
but is instead nestled deep-within. Amen.