The Psalmist sings, “Joyful are all who fear God, and who follow in God’s ways! You shall eat the fruit of your labour; joy and shalom shall be yours. Your beloved shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive shoots around your table.” (Psalm 128:1-3)
I experience palpable joy every now and again. Most often it is when I have returned home to my family after being away for a few days for work. Sometimes it is anticipatory – I get off the train, inhale the fresh sea air and walk up the hill brimming with the joyful thought that I am about to see and hug and be amongst my family again.
Sometimes it is delayed – I might have arrived home the night before and then the next day I am out walking to the shops and I feel joy well up within me at the thought that I am at home.
It is not spectacular – not a high point or at a poignant moment but rather it wells up in the everyday state of the world I live in.
I have always understood happiness to be a response to a specific situation but joy to be a longer lasting response to an ongoing state. For me this is lived out in the joy I experience from time to time which I attribute to the Holy Spirit.
For me it is in part a feeling of being held by God in our troubled world and gratitude for God’s provision of a home; of God’s presence and reassurance amidst the stress and busyness of life and trauma I see in the community and the world.
For me joy is about being – recognising that I am a child of God – rather than about doing. I experience joy in acknowledging who I am and who I am in relationship with rather than because I did something or achieved something.
As I understand it, the fruit of the spirit is planted in me and grows up slowly but surely through God’s agency and not through my efforts – which are usually counterproductive to that growth.
I cannot induce joy – I cannot bring it on – I cannot spend time meditating and evoke it – it just is – it is a state of being. The only action I can do in recognise it for what it is – the fruit of the spirit welling up in the world despite everything – and be grateful to God for it – and hope and pray that it will well up in me again soon. Ω
Reflect: Do you experience joy in belonging to a particular household? To a family or other community? To a landscape or place? Where do you feel particularly held by God?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. Why? Read this. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022.
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