I think it’s safe to say that most people assume joy is found in the big, exciting moments. And while I don’t think they’re entirely wrong, I don’t think they’re entirely right either. Yes, those giant events like weddings, grand vacations, or successful book launches are exciting and happy times. We experience the thrill of the moment, feel the hype, capture all those perfect pictures to safely save on our phones. We are full of good cheer and big smiles. All good things come from God and it’s these milestone moments that are memorable, but were they moments of joy? 

Joy is a Sign
Joy, as Ron Rolheiser explains, is “a sign of the life of God.” (
https://ronrolheiser.com/joy-a-sign-of-god/) Joy can’t be manufactured or mandated. Joy can’t be planned or predicted. Joy can’t be bought or booked. Joy is a sign that God lives, it is proof that he is near and evidence that he loves us so. Joy, as mentioned in Galatians 5, is a harvest of the Holy Spirit. 

Joy is suddenly there, in our ordinary, mundane moments. Joy surprises and grabs our attention. Joy is comfortable and secure. Joy is restful and relaxing. Joy takes our breath away and causes us to breathe deeply all at the same time. When joy finds us, it feels easy and safe, and as if we were unaware of its presence all along. Perhaps joy is warm. 

If joy is the proof of God’s presence, then Moses felt it when he obediently squeezed the hot sand between his bare feet as the bush caught fire (Exodus 3:4–5), or when God pressed him into the protective rock, still holding heat from the day’s sun, so he could pass (Exodus 33:22). If joy is found in the ordinary moments, then Mary experienced joy not only at the birth of Jesus, but each time she felt his warm baby breath exhaled upon her cheeks when she held him tight. And Thomas, the one who wanted to be sure, stumbled upon joy the moment Jesus graciously revealed his wounds. In doubt-stealing and breath-stealing seconds, Thomas experienced joy in the pulsing presence of grace and power in Jesus’ very alive body (John 20:27). 

Joy Felt Around Me
My 9-year-old son has learned a trick to make me smile in almost any situation. He has this ridiculous, forced smile that just tosses me over the edge. He knows he wields this power over me and, sometimes, uses it to his advantage. While this smile of his is artificial, it represents a very warm and authentic depth between us. This child exudes God’s joy. 

My teenage daughter sings to make others happy. Her voice is pure and powerful. She can fill a huge hall with her breath, but her greatest performances are unattended by any audience. She sings her best when practicing in the backyard, where only other songbirds can hear her, or in her bedroom, where her power bounces off the sloped ceiling and vibrates all the way down to my ears. This child exhales God’s joy. 

My middle child creates beauty with her hands– by turning groceries into delectable desserts, skeins of yarn into warm blankets, and chaos into order. She settles disputes, supports in the busy, and solves complicated problems. We are beneficiaries when her brilliance blends with kindness. This child exposes God’s joy. 

My husband steadies us all. Although most perceive him as the funny guy, these aren’t the moments he is his truest self. His most authentic moments are when he stays up late to help people unpack confusing truths or humbly confronts irresponsibility or unkindness. He makes space to intentionally read Scripture so slowly that people become captivated by phrases they’ve heard a thousand times but seemingly for the first time simultaneously. This man extends God’s joy. 

If joy truly is the sign that God lives, then it must be true that my son’s desire to see me giggle at the most inopportune time is a holy moment. If joy is felt in the breath of God, then it must be true that the backyard concerts are sacred stages. If joy is proof of the divine, then watching the impossible problem become solved is miraculous. And, if joy is a harvest of the Holy Spirit, then it must also be true that inviting others to safety and growth because they’ve feasted on nutritious phrases is consecrated work. Perhaps, if joy feels familiar, it’s because we were unaware of its presence– the very omnipresence of God. 

While the funny smile, the performance, the beautiful pie, and the gathering of listeners can be caught on camera, the joy can’t. Like other moments that are the most sacred, joy can’t be photographed. Joy, like the hot breath of the whisper felt in the cleft of the rock, can only be felt. Joy felt in the moment of relief after great pain or the pause in the middle of the pain, can only be remembered. So, fill your phone with great shots of the wedding, the vacation of a lifetime, or the moment your goal was met. Remind yourself of those events and places in time. But know that, in all those moments, the joy can’t be captured, or bought, or scheduled. Maybe that’s why we long to go back to those beautiful moments so badly—to feel the joy again. Joy is surprising. Joy is precious. Joy is alive. Joy is found in the plain, warm, ordinary moments of the mundane. 

Photo by Ville Palmu from Unsplash.com

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