I am at my favorite diner. Church is done. I ran late, talking to various people, which is part of the job, but also part of being human. Just listening to people. There are a lot of things I don’t do well, but I listen well. A small gift I am happy to put to work.
I am not feeling poetic today. Some days are like that. It is hard for me to dig feelings out and name them, and poetry is part of how I do that. Each morning sitting, almost meditatively, waiting for the garbage in life to sink to the bottom, so I can write the feelings. Most days, when I don’t feel poetic, like today, I do it anyway. It’s a discipline. For better or worse, you get to read my scribblings each day.
But not today. I don’t feel like the struggle. I am content for most of my feelings to stay under the surface.
A few I can name. I live in perpetual gratitude these days. I look back often on where I have been and where I am, nearly whole again, and I am grateful. Grateful not just for being in a better place, but for the journey to get here.
Hard as it was, there were so many lessons. I became something I am not sure I was before – strong. I have become more compassionate. Less anxious. More comfortable in my skin. I do not think we get there naturally. People help us along and through. They are still helping me. I have become amazed at how, just when I need “X” (not when I want it, when I need it), “X” arrives.
Often in a different guise than expected. But it comes.
I needed some joy this week. Among my parishoners, among my patients, among my friends, it has been a few weeks of hard, hard time. I do what I do, including listen. But the list was long, and lasted long, and over time, it tires. My wife and I have a couple of trips planned the last few weeks and I was looking forward (still am looking forward) to them, counting on the time away for respite, figuring I could refresh and renew on the trips. I could make it that far just fine.
In the church calendar, this is the third week of Advent. If you keep an advent wreath, you know it is the week we light the third candle, pink instead of the purple of the other three. The candle of joy.
It is not always easy to create a service on joy when you are not feeling it. I wasn’t feeling bad. My life, in fact, is pretty dang good right now. But so many around me! So many I care for!. It has had me a little sad, But it’s your job to share the good news, and so you work at it. But you don’t always feel it. Another discipline. One I could not sluff off like not writing poetry,
Church was different this morning. Oh, the same people who are usually there, both in the sanctuary and virtually, were there. Our prayer list, the requests for prayers, was just as long. Most of what people are dealing with have a long journey to run, so they will be on our list for a long time. We always do prayer requests first thing, then pray for everyone later in the service. Pretty much the same folks with the same needs.
But something was different, and this is what it was: In addition to the hurts, fears, hard times, sicknesses, people shared their joys. And there were a lot of them. This one got a new job they had been working towards. That one was well. Another had a new medicine and had so much more energy. Another……
It was a long list. And as more people shared their joys, you could feel the atmosphere change. You could feel the room’s energy lift. There were smiles. I too was lifted.
The service went well. Services this time of year are always lovely. All the familiar music. The lights of the decorations. The time focused on the actual meaning of the season, and the gifts God gives us. I could have sleep walked through the service and it still would have been nice.
But it was more than nice. It was joyful.
Joyful in the season of joy, Joyful despite the big long list of things still needing prayer. Joyful despite me, or if not despite me, because I too was lifted.
We talk a lot of sharing our burdens. Helping each other carrying each other’s hard times. And that is important. It truely is. It is part of what we are called to do, in most every faith. But let us never forget the important of sharing our blessings and joys just as vocally. For hearing joys reminds us that the world is not as dark as it sometimes feels. It reminds us that we live in a world, a universe, under a God who loves us, and shows his love in a million tiny joyful ways. And in a troubled world. (and ours is troubled, if you have no noticed), the sharing of joys is a powerful weapon for healing, building strength, and yes, for joy.
Just something to think about as we close in for Christmas. Share your joy. Every day.
PS – the picture was taken in our church, Rupert Methodist.