Cats are joy-maestros. They conduct their existence entirely for joy, and I think non cat-people are threatened by this. Or they just hate them for being detached and untrustworthy, or they hate being cuddled at will. I’ll wager that dogs might be just as joyful. Forgive me, dog lovers; I have one too and he is pretty fabulous. Tucker the corgi doesn’t get photographed again until someone bathes him. Priorities.
Wash the dog
- Write the blog post that wants to come out today
I have strained joy muscles these days, not because I don’t have an amazing life full of people who make me happy. I just have a problem with foreboding joy. Do you know that happiness and joy are not the same? Yeah, this is new for me.
My soul breathed a sigh of deep relief to have this mistrust of deep joy identified by one of my new favorite authors, and it’s not terminal but it is a roadblock to vulnerability. Brene Brown explains it this way:
Having spent several years studying what it means to feel joyful, I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel. why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding….In a culture of deep scarcity of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough – joy can feel like a trap. (Daring Greatly, Brene Brown)
But today – today there is a real joy that I am not afraid of that has happened in my heart. The switch is flipped and I am joyFUL. Something really hard has been transformed. (Insert shoulder shrug). I’m trying to explain it, but I’m not denying it.
Wow, I cringe at the pure sap that thought conveys, but that’s only because we who shelter foreboding joy really hate full-on positive emotion. No, really. I have this tick, this uncontrollable reaction, that balks at absolute goodness. I’m a grown up and I know that bad things happen. In fact, when a great goodness does occur, my faithless heart is already looking for what might be wrong with this picture. I metaphorically rub my glasses clean of schmutz to gain pragmatic clarity. Where is that sinister down side? It must be just out of view.
And then there’s real joy that washes over me sometimes, and I know the other-worldly truth, the Kingdom truth that was the secret sauce for Jesus Christ. I glimpse it.
This week I am taking something difficult from the hand of God and he is shining it like a fresh apple and handing it back to me as joy. And it makes me sure that this is what the author of Hebrews meant when he told us in Hebrew 12 that it was for JOY that Jesus endured.
He sets us up for the explanation of how the faithful built a kingdom with their lives as the bricks. Right before chapter 12, in chapter 11 there is this glorious list of sufferers who knew why they suffered – that it was for the pure hope of salvation and someday-grace even before grace came into the realm of human experience through the cross. But how? How did Jesus use joy as his motivation for permitting his own torture and death to his own body?
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I think Jesus, being fully God and having existed with him for all time before those days, when earthly death loomed near, remembered joy. The joy that went before his human life would resume after it and last forever. This joy for him was powerful fuel. It can be for us too.
When I was a little girl, I started journaling as a way to save a moment for later, giving rich detail to an occasion with words for the deliberate purpose of revisiting it. This hypothesis, that it was possible to keep “time in a bottle” was so optimistic, and I needed that brand of glimmering joy to last, because it’s hard to be 13. Heartbreak sucks. Parents fighting sucks. Feeling unfit for the cool uniform, whatever version we aspire to sucks. And there are nights when I just wanted to take out a tissue and a happy memory.
So today, for her sake, I’m making one.
Thank you God for how the cold ocean grabbed my feet. Thank you for the lump in my throat that did not reduce me to a puddle but powered me through a hard conversation. Thanks for the feeling of hope that is shocking my nervous system. Thank you, Father, for the unexpected release of joy that making this new decision has wrought. I hope this memory will source my joy in the coming weeks when life is hard again. You show me how.
This is my anthem lately – hope it helps you too.