UGH, this is a hard one! JOY! (Don’t you feel like it has to be followed with an exclamation point?) Telling people to find joy in the blessings no matter how small is not helpful and I would suggest it is even harmful and alienating, especially when we imply that joy is evidence of our spirituality and our resolve, as do the writers of the Christian website Theopedia. Their entry for joy is “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness.” Following the above definition are a few ‘encouraging’ paragraphs about choosing joy and finding joy that include a whole lot of ‘shoulds’ that make me question the authenticity of the evangelical Christian perspective. Check it out: http://www.theopedia.com/joy Honestly that doesn’t always work for me no matter how hard I try.
In the movie “Inside Out” Joy is the skinny, pretty one in a yellow twirly, flippy dress. I’ve always wanted to be Joy but if I’m honest I’m really more of a combination of Sadness and Disgust. Some days my zeal is heavy on the zzzzz’s and light on the (squ)eal’s. I am a champion napper, which is my way of shutting out all the voices and taking a break from too much thinking. I flee from negative feelings by hiding out in books, in my bed and even in busyness.
No amount of telling me that I ‘should have joy and count my blessings’ will change my attitude. I just want to embrace the disappointments and the negatives of life, see the world as it really is and, frankly, dwell in the pity party for a moment, take a nap, eat a pint of Chunky Monkey, bitch and moan a little and eventually give myself a pep talk and move on, slowly and with determination and without guilt about being human and embracing the fact that JOY! is not always an option for me. I want to smack this little elf right off her shelf, for real!
So, what do I do with the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ when they’re not my ‘go to’? I’m tired of pretending and just ‘putting on the armor’….I know, mixing my scripture passages. I’m not good at putting on ‘joy’ and just smiling when things aren’t alright.
You know, I think sometimes in life Sadness and Disgust and even Anger are the appropriate emotions and we need to embrace them. Sitting with them for a bit serves to remind me that not everyone is JOY! Some of us struggle with choosing and living in the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘pretending’ and that’s okay. We’re the ones who can sit with others when joy isn’t around and be okay with a real life full of messy, hard stuff. I’ve sat with depression, death, dying, cleaned up diarrhea and cried with strangers; someone has to be there when joy is hard to find.