This is my last post of the year… without declaring what next year’s theme will be. I haven’t really tapped into any insight of what the next year will entail, so for now I will be silent about that. Anyway, to state that this “year of Joy” was anything but joyful is not definitive proof that I am a sadist or one who is incapable of experiencing joy. With all things I’ve asked of God, however, the truth of ” the themes” is always multidimensional. Also, not being one who is ever satisfied with a flimsy or shallow understanding of said “theme” (like a house built on sand) the effort to understand the deeper meaning of joy has taken greater energy and focus than anything else I’ve tackled on this journey. First, because I feel at its core the concept of joy is deeply misunderstood; second, because of my own imperfections and limitations; thirdly, because the concept of joy is so intimately intertwined into my particular belief system that it has been necessary for me to strip away what has been illusory and what is real about the joy that my faith brings. Boom. Head explodes.
The greatest fallacy I’ve discovered regarding joy is that it somehow comes from a place of sublime and almost ignorant happiness, that with axioms and idioms, joy becomes real, a fact. What this year has shown me is that true joy cannot be fabricated and is often most predicated on difficulty. Whether it comes from sadness, stupidity, pierced illusion, betrayal, embarking on a strenuous challenge, obstacles of every sort or simply boredom…Joy is that very thing that colors and transforms difficult or challenging moments when I choose to embrace them as seeds of possibility, nurturing them and seeing something blossom that turns into a beautiful and succulent fruit that comes with being rooted in faith, truth and love. Yes, I can see this as heady nonsense, so let me explain.
When the year began, I had already started to dabble in some arts and crafts (what I would call it) and then at the beginning of my year of joy, I consciously chose it as a mechanism to react to, and express the struggle I was having with understanding its true meaning. By that time my faith in reason, religious structures, leadership and later the countries response to a pandemic was already at a lifetime low. So I taught myself to draw (with the help of YouTube and an amazing artist and family member), to paint, to create jewelry that took all that negative energy and made it into something else, something that I felt joy from. The result was something that I didn’t foresee…I was actually good at it, and my own surprise that I was good at it was a revelation in itself that made me pause. I tried to take inherently joyful moments and ideas that existed outside myself and put myself into them: my son climbing a mountain, a butterfly, and exquisite stones and then created art including the blue laughing woman at the top of this post. I understood my surprise in this hidden talent was rooted in the second reason this journey of discovering joy was so difficult. Because, regardless of proof otherwise, at my core I fight against the belief that I truly am one of the least among us that Jesus spoke so poignantly about. No, this is not a pity party or cry for approval, it is simply recognizing and stating a belief that I’ve struggled the hardest to get rid of my entire life. Curiously, this year I found more success by learning to see this weakness as a future gift. And by choosing to see myself as one of the least among us, I’ve also become able to distinguish who the sheep and goats are in my life. So those of you who have chosen to treat me unlike Jesus would, I say good riddance, because even though you may think it is of little effect for a lowly one as me to treat any of you who righteously believe you are superior to me, as Jesus would, it offers me clarity of who really understands what those words truly mean. Your behavior toward “the least” is a measurement of how much you truly understand the gospel message. The gift that comes from thinking I am among the least, is that there is no compunction to create any falsehoods about who I am or hold onto any sense of superiority. I don’t have to pretend I’m better than anyone else because I already know I’m not. And those of you who do, are becoming so much more obvious about your true nature. Being “better than” is never and has never been part of what true joy really is…but kindness is, and mercy, and truth, and love, love, love is. Joy is also not synonymous with happiness, because some of my truest moments of joy this year, like the woman above, were colored in blue, in grief, and the sadness that comes from seeing things in a new light.
So when I say these words, in this season of light: “Joy to the World,” it is not only my wish that all of you discover the joy that comes through when we transform any moment into a future fruit, but that it is done by preparing room in our hearts for it, and seeing it through eyes of love, faith and truth.