Around 7:30 in the morning when I twist open the blinds and am met with a soft new sky and a citrus sunrise, I feel it, but it's only a glimmer.
Late in the evening as I sit with my baby girl nestled into me while she drinks her bottle, I ponder how right at this moment I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should do, and I feel it again for a moment before it flits away.
And I'm trying to think of a third example, but it is skittish, this feeling. It is the snow leopard of feelings in my life. Beautiful and thrilling yet extremely rare and hard to find.
The feeling I'm talking about is joy.
The ironic thing is that I have so much in my life that you would think would cause me great joy. I am blessed with a beautiful little family, a cozy apartment, plenty of food, warmth when it's cold, friends to laugh and share life with, the ability to walk and talk and breathe.
Not to mention ocean waves and stroller walks and glasses of wine and snuggles and good stories and clear nights when you can see the stars and scarves and Chik-fil-a milkshakes.
There are so many good things in my life, that I should have a steadily blazing campfire supply of joy instead of only an occasional spark or smoldering ember. More often than not, I choose to dwell instead on things that kill joy: the awkward situations where I don't know what to say or how someone hurt my feelings or how perfect that other person's life looks compared to mine or the stats of how many people actually read this blog or that thing that happened years ago that made me feel ashamed and stupid.
I wonder how joy can be more permanent here, how I can calm it down and coax it to stay a while. This verse I read when Evie was first born keeps coming back to me, and I think it may hold some clues on how to make this happen.
"For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart." -Ecclesiates 5:20
This is such a beautiful concept.
And jarring because I've been looking for joy in all the wrong places.
A major part of this verse that I seem to glaze over is where it says what gives joy. Or more accurately Who gives joy. God is the one who occupies us with joy. Nothing else will. Circumstances and material things and people cannot give me what they do not have the power to give. Even choosing to focus on the positive is only a temporary fix because, in the end, I am still just making joy about the things of life instead of the Author of life.
True joy only comes when I decide to find my joy in something other than things entirely. Something outside of everything, that will remain constant even when things in this world break down and circumstances play themselves out and people disappoint.
I also realize I am seeking a feeling when I look for joy, but maybe joy isn't just a feeling. Feelings are fleeting. I think maybe true joy is a lot like love....more of an ability that we have to learn. Being joyful will not always look like you are constantly wanting to skip and smile and frolic through meadows with "Everything is Awesome!" playing in the background (if you don't get this reference, you are seriously missing out and should finish reading this post and go watch The Lego Movie. Yeah, you read that right. The Lego Movie). I think it means that no matter what happens in your life, you have an inner peace and reassurance that you'll be ok. Your ultimate hope and comfort and identity is in something unshakeable.
To be occupied with joy is to be free from being defined by the details of my life- the excitement of knowing someone likes what I have written, the disappointment when it is met with silence, the fear of speaking up, the happiness that comes with being thought of, the pride when my daughter learns to do something new, the shame when I mess up...again, the frustration when things don't work out, the elation when they do...
To be occupied with joy is to go through these things and not lose or gain even one more ounce of who we are because who we are is already firmly established in God's hands. In what He has done for us. In who He has created us to be.
And we don't have to worry because He will guard us well.