“Paying attention” has reaped some interesting rewards lately. For example, I’ll be out in the park walking Roxie and begin to realize I have an unusual sense of well-being. Then I notice that it’s more than a sense of well-being, it’s a brightness that grows in my chest as I look at it sideways, trying not to frighten it away. I realize I’m happy, then, that it’s more than that: I’m full of joy.
I then burst into tears. That generally scares the joy away. (Thank goodness I walk early in the morning…)
I’m not used to joy. To me, joy is an emotion that happens to other people. But as I’ve read my Bible and matured spiritually, I’ve realized that joy is a fruit of the spirit that isn’t just “recommended reading” for the average Christian, it’s required. If you think about it, it’s one of the more obvious fruit of the spirit to detect–when you meet a joyful person, you know it immediately. You don’t necessarily know if they’re patient or meek or have superb self-control, but joy is written all over their face.
At the same time, it seems to be a particularly difficult “fruit” for us modern Christians to understand, let alone embody. Our busy-ness, our worry about what the future holds or even just “what’s next” conspire to compress within us that place where joy resides, leaving it unavailable for any positive emotion, let alone the joy that flows through the Holy Spirit into us. To make room for joy means letting go of our fears and worries and trusting in God for every good and perfect gift. It also means we must acknowledge the presence of God in this very moment, the one in which we’re living, allowing his presence to be our joy.
Practically speaking, right now my growth edge is to create the space for joy. To be attentive, especially on my walks, thanking God for all that is good in my life, opening my heart to him. My prayer is that I won’t always have to sneak up on joy, but that I will be able to experience it face-to-face.
Lord Jesus Christ, who passed through death in order to make a path for us through death into life, infuse me with the joy of your resurrection life, fill me with your presence and make your home within me. Amen.