joy is what we are here to see and do

It is what I was born for: to look, to listen inside this soft world — to instruct myself over and over. — mary oliver

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. — albert einstein 

If peace comes from seeing things whole, then misery stems from a loss of perspective. — mark nepo

One of my favorite writers and poets, Mark Nepo, writes that we begin life so aware and grateful. The sun is hanging in the sky. The colors of our world are changing brilliantly before us — hues of red and orange and yellow. The air is crisp and birds are singing. The miracle of life seems to just happen all around us. And then we’re walking about the house and we stub our little toe, and all of life is reduced to that moment of pain, to our little toe. Maybe it becomes difficult to walk for a few days, and with every step, we can only think about the pain.

Joy is really about the filter through which we define our day, the narrowness or wideness of perspective we choose to use as our lens — the sharp tinge of pain as we walk on that bruised toe, or the curiosity and delight of life still happening around us. When we narrow our focus to longing for one outcome to our problems, whatever they may be, to seeing life only through the lens of those problems, and expecting certain outcomes for the events of our lives, we lose all perspective on the largeness of joy and the breadth of life at the very ground of our being.

A favorite bible text we read this time of year is Isaiah 43: 18-20, “This is what the lord says — the one who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, says this, ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Look, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not see it? I am making a way through the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’” Joy is a kind of intentional perspective — not that everything turns out the way we want it to, but maybe more importantly that a way through our day and our challenges becomes clear and engages us in a kind of delight, regardless of how it turns out.

The writer and poet, Ross Gay, writes in his book, The Book of Delights, “We practice tenderness and mercy in part because to understand that we are all suffering is one of the qualities of adult joy. It is joy by which the labor that will make the life that we deeply want, possible. It is not at all puzzling to me that joy is possible in the midst of difficulty.”

Joy embraces it all. Joy is a way of seeing and inhabiting all our moments. Joy is the very purpose of our being, to take part in how we all see this “new thing” in all our moments and all our encounters.

Joy can be only to stop a moment and see — the sun is still shining behind the clouds, and simple acts of love still define our finest moments, children are still curiously looking under rocks and leaves, birds are still singing out to find one another, and seeds are lying quietly beneath the surface anticipating spring.

Joy is making a way through the wilderness of life and inviting us all into a kind of delightful exchange. In almost every instance of our social lives, we are, if we notice and take delight, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, caretaking of one another — holding doors open, offering elbows at crosswalks, letting someone else go first, helping with the heavy bags, reaching what’s too high or what’s been dropped, pulling someone back to their feet. We are making our way together through the alternating merge on life’s highway.

This Sunday, December 8, in eleven:eleven, “Joy 1.0: Out Loud!” we explore the intentional, “out loud,” side of joy — to see our moments in new ways and live into delight. Joy is how we make sense of it all and for one another.

See you then!


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

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