“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ~John 15:11
I’ve never been accused of being an optimist.
I remember someone asking me before I began my journey to adoption whether I was happy with my life. It is a legit question, I think. It is a hard question for me, though. There are plenty of things that I pursue… intellectual challenge, emotional intimacy, meaningful work. Feeling happy has never really made the cut. It’s not that I’m unhappy. It’s just that doing the smart things, the right things, the meaningful things don’t always make me feel a certain way (and when they do make me feel a certain way, I am more likely to call it content or fulfilled than happy).
And yet this business of joy is right there in the midst of abiding in John 15.
It’s weird to think of joy as a choice. I remember lighting the joy candle on my advent wreath last year as I shed tears for the little ones lost in Newtown. I thought about not lighting it. It seemed too hard, almost a betrayal. Had I left enough space for the sadness? But as those mamas and daddies and teachers and friends in Connecticut kept breathing, kept pressing forward, kept telling stories and rebuilding classrooms and moving toward healing, I knew that the joy candle was right.
In the hardest possible way, this too was joy.
Happiness might be leaving work at work.
Joy is desperately pleading with Jesus to hold the little ones I love when I cannot—to be their daily bread, their safe place. And choosing to trust that he will.
Happiness might be parenting a cheerful, compliant child.
Joy is learning to helplessly depend on Jesus in the journey toward redemptive parenting—binding up, again and again, deep soul wounds that have nothing to do with me.
Happiness might be avoiding the fear that is supposed to be driven out by Perfect Love.
Joy is holding onto Jesus with hands rubbed raw from scrubbing, with thoughts scattered not from too much multi-tasking, but from too much worry that something bad will surely happen if I let my guard down. And then looking into another mama’s frantic eyes and saying, “I know.”
My friends, this too is joy.