|"Joy" CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Dugg Simpson. Source: Flickr|
What brings you joy?
And by 'joy', I don't mean something that makes you happy. I think those two words are often used interchangeably, but convey a different meaning.
For me, happiness is the feeling I get when things are going well. When I am with friends, when my dog licks my hand, when I open a new book, that sort of thing.
Yet joy is much deeper. Because for me, joy is rooted in the love of God. It is not sentimentality, but a visceral response to knowing that the deepest part of me has in some way connected to the expression of God's grace in the world. Sometimes (often?) joy and happiness overlap - and what fantastic moments those are!
But focusing back on joy; my first question is itself a bit misleading, for what brings us joy is Jesus. A more accurate (though less simplified) question could be: What happens in this realm that makes your inner being celebrate the glory of God? What is happening when your essence delights in love?
This is definitely a more thought-provoking question, and requires more time in prayer and reflection. But I believe that it is time well spent, as that reflection gives us the privilege to acknowledge how we best connect with God. In my own examples, every joy-provoking experience is also an exercise of ministry. It is the delight of community with friends and family, it is the celebration of the Eucharist, it is the nourishment of prayer, it is the stirring of souls as the peace is extended. When the joy of the Lord is in you, you know it!
Spending time discerning this joy also identifies for us our unique opportunity to re-engage with that divine presence when we re-engage with the ministry that brought it to our awareness in the first place. For example, I know I feel joy when I worship with folks at retirement communities, so I make that a priority in my ministry. I know I feel joy when I spend time with my godson (and his family), so I make efforts for that to be a regular occurrence. I know I feel joy when I spend time in nature, and my dogs (furry demonstrations of divine love) help me maintain that daily connection as we wander the trails. These events help me delight in the truth of God's love, and thus bring me great joy.
So: what brings you joy? And what are you willing to do to re-engage with that joy today?
Whatever today brings, I wish you happiness; but more importantly, I wish you joy.