Recently I have asked myself the question, “What gives you joy?” It seemed like so many people around me had an activity or pastime where the joy they received from engaging in it gave them immense pleasure; in a word, it gave them joy. My brother gets joy from riding his Harley, a friend loves ballroom dancing (she does the Salsa), and yet another enjoys creating beautiful flower arrangements.
“I don’t know what gives me joy,” I would lament to them, and to myself. I think what I was looking for was the one big thing that I would do that would give me the elusive joyful feeling I so jealously saw others receiving. It wasn’t until just the other day that I realized that what gave me joy was not the monumental, big, life-altering thing that brings pleasure, but my joy is found in moments. How could I have missed it? (I can almost hear my friend saying, “Well, DUH!”) But for me, it simply had not come clear except in the past few days.
I get joy from looking out my home office window and seeing the pond that lives behind my house. Every day, as I work from home, I watch the acrobatics of the many ring-neck ducks as they dive and swim in amazing synchrony, and the wondrous joy of discovering, swimming in the midst of the the ring-necks and mallards and Canada geese, a brand new breed I’d never seen before–a cinnamon teal. I mean, who knew? I also watch the numerous varieties of birds visiting the feeder and the antics of the squirrels trying, unsuccessfully to get at the food in the feeders, all the while ignoring the corn cob I’d put out specifically for them. In the past weeks, in addition to the new ducks, I’ve seen a red fox, a wild turkey, frolicking deer, and a newly discovered muskrat living near the edge of the pond.
I realized that I am a nature lover of the highest order, reveling in the beauty of the wildlife, trees and plants that are all around me. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the dance in the heavens of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter aligned in a semi-triangular array in the early morning sky, along with other familiar constellations. The wonders of the heavens is present for me, it gives me moments of joy, and those moments add up to a life that is filled with joy. This has been an amazing discovery for me, and I am incredibly grateful for this new–if obvious–awareness.
So one could ask what, if anything, does this have to do with the 40-day journey we’re on right now? This time of anticipation of Jesus’s suffering need not be always solemn. There were no doubt times when Jesus reveled in the beauty of the creation all around him. Even knowing, as he did, that he was destined to die (though, aren’t we all?) he did not dwell on it all the time. He had to have witnessed, for example, the beauty of the lilies of the field that he referenced in one of his sermons. He had to have known moments of joy.
And so we, though we are living in incredibly stressful and sometimes frightening days, must find our own moments of joy to ground us and balance the anxiety that is all around us. I know it sounds like such a simple thing, though it is not easy to do, to look for and find the beauty that is literally all around us. I am grateful to have discovered something that gives me joy. I hope that even those who are in the midst of suffering find moments of joy, of comfort and ease. May it be so.