The bread is warm, and the coffee is fresh, and morning prayer is sung by a cooing six-month old. Outside the rain is pounding and drumming, but inside we are snug and safe. What more could I ask for? I have been given this, and so much more. At times I wonder why – why me? Why so much? The baby smiles at Daddy, and I think my heart just burst for joy.
I have not always felt the joy. There have been seasons where the discouragements loomed large and shut out the light. There have been days when all I have been given has been a burden I nearly collapsed under. There have been times when joy was hard won moment-by-moment. I do not take it for granted.
And yet, here it is. I have chased it down only to find it handed over as pure gift. I have felt its call from the far country, and sold everything to dig for the pearl of great price. I have known it as the tender unfurling of a fruit blossom, fragile and quiet, and I have known it as a great thrumming song of victory wild.
I have learned I cannot create it. I cannot conjure it up. Its essence is otherworldly, yet it takes on form in such ordinary pleasures. It is embodied by what I can sense, but it is not limited by circumstances. It is one part of the Spirit-life that grows only when the seed of all I am falls into the ground and dies, hidden, waiting, waiting for resurrection. And yet I can, and must, cultivate it. I must tear away the vines that choke, grasping the thick trunk of mistrust to pull it up by its root.
It is not sadness which is joy’s great enemy. It is lack of trust. Sadness is a rain that can water the ground and make it soft, make joy bloom all the sweeter for its flood. But disbelief is true lack – lack of water, lack of light, lack of compost. Disbelief is drought. Disbelief is darkness. Disbelief takes the discarded scraps of life and holds them bitter tight, squeezes them into a putrid slime that is death to the struggling seedling. But trust – ah, here I am only beginning to learn – trust takes the fallen leaves and embraces the decay of my frailty, entrusting them to the earth’s slow renewal.
Trust is surrender, and surrender is the beginning of birth. Surrender is the beginning of beauty, even in what’s broken. Surrender is the beginning of joy.
The baby laughs, and I hear the voice of my Father in her. Even her cry is His benediction, as I embrace the life He has given me and seek Him in her eyes.
Today, joy is my companion by the fireside. And perhaps tomorrow I may have to go out into the storm to follow its call. But I am learning to trust. Learning to take joy even when the winds are howling. There is a path of life wherever God is present. The deepest secret of joy is its Source, and He says, “Lo, I am with you always.”