Jockeying for Joy

Another week of waiting, followed by a wave of sorrow, helplessness, and a tinge of irony.  The next Advent theme was joy, and what a story that might have been.  I was jockeying for a story of healing, of the restoration of a world askew, of prayers miraculously answered. Through the week, I alternated between the hope of a miracle and a sense of doom, willing myself to stay hopeful so that my shaky faith would not be the cause of doom.

As if my shaky faith, or yours, or our lack thereof, were critically determining factors.  What rubbish lurks in the corners of our minds waiting to ambush our faith. The struggle continued through the week.  Friday morning, I wrote that part of me was confident I would write of joy from a perspective of joy.  But joy got a thumping on Friday when Doug and his family received the pathology results.  There wasn't going to be any declaration of miracles to provide the framework for an amazing story of joy.

Mid-week, I came across an Ernest Hemingway quote.  "Write hard and clear about what hurts."  It hurts to write about joy when life dishes out sorrow to those you love. Western culture does not do well acknowledging the imperfect, the painful, or the sad.  I don't do well with any of those either.  I hurry to fix the imperfect, relieve the painful, and wipe away the sad. This time there is no way around the messiness of life.  We will go through together in our imperfect way, experiencing pain and laughter. Psychotherapist, Francis Weller, said, "We try to control every minute detail, but life is too rambunctious, too wild.  We simply can't avoid the losses, wounds, and failures that come into our lives." (The Sun Magazine).

Although we can't avoid the painful, we can be alert for the joyful because a rambunctious, wild life will have all the elements.  Life is a bit like a horse race.  We each have our own horse to ride.  There are risks in every race; we may get thrown off or splattered with muck.  Do we get back on our horse or do we sit on the sidelines cradling our broken dreams?  Whether we choose to participate in the crazy wild race of life is irrelevant.  The race goes on and it will end for all of us sooner or later.  Without being callous, we all are running a race toward a certain death which doesn't seem like a very joyous Christmas thought.  Most of us manage to start and live each day avoiding that reality.  We avoid it mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  As if it isn't going to happen to us, ever.

We put off things of enduring importance, filling our hours with the inconsequential.  We wait for someday, to acknowledge and unleash what God has gifted us with.  Days spin by, the race goes on.  We drown in the noise of the mundane. But, what if we approached today and every day this week as if it were our last?  What if we lived a whole year of days like that?  Would we find ourselves stuck constantly in the pain and anger of life or would we jockey for joy?  Would we listen and look for those opportunities to live fully and experience joy while the mud was hitting us?  Would we strive to be whole-
heartedly alive, bringing pleasure and joy to our Creator?

Let's run this horse race of life together, completely cognizant that we will get knocked off our horses a time or two but with open eyes and hearts to embrace the joy of the ride.   It might test our patience but joy will show up.  Joy will call us from a sundog, a snowflake, or the smile of a child.  We will feel it in the touch of a friend's hand.  Joy will be the spillover of someone's kindness.  That, my friends is about as great an Advent message as there could possibly be.  We don't have to wait for joy, it's already here.  Joy has been here all along in our messy painful lives; we just have to hold on through the race of our rambunctious lives.  As  Steve Schallert sings, "keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on."  Splendor and majesty flow out of our Creator, strength and joy fill his world - our world no matter what.