Years ago when I returned from the Middle East, folks at cocktail parties or church seemed to always ask, “so what did you learn in all your time over there?”
egads! how to compress 5 years of living & working in the complex context of the West Bank, Gaza Strip & Israel in a 3 minute chatty conversation?
But then, the response came: “I learned about joy in suffering.” Full stop. The experiences of five years whittled into one sentence.
‘Tis true, I saw Many Things (mostly of the non-joyful conflict-driven variety) – but I also saw the incredible spirit of friends, colleagues, the victims of violence, injustice & tough times as they reached Up and then out to those around them as Beacons of Light, of Love, Forgiveness, Peace … & Joy.
I encountered more Joy lessons in other conflict zones. Then, living in Africa i witnessed Courageous Joy living amidst deadly diseases (& poverty & injustice & So Much More.) ‘
So, from this Lesson Toolkit of living examples, here’s Virginia take on Joy …
Joy is not some bubbled-head happiness that depends on what happens. Joy comes from within the heart (sometimes Deep Within after The Horribles crush the outside & stomp, squash & pummel the life inside to near-oblivion)…
Joy is more like a conviction that There Is More than this. Joy chooses to have faith in God’s Love, Mercy & Grace to carry on through the tough stuff that faces us, or them, or hurting hearts wherever they may be…
Joy does not mean pain-free living, but does not let the pain drive us to darkness. Joy chooses to follow the Light (even when it’s hard to see the dimmest flicker or spark or feel any warmth around us)…
Joy is the deadliest tool of Light because it dispels the darkness devised & delivered by the evil one & it’s evil minions (may they rot in hell in the eternal forever!)
Is this possible in the context of our whacked out world? yes, I have seen it over & over in inspirational Palestinians, Israelis, Albanians in Kosovo, Bosnians, Serbs, East Timorese, Congolese, Somalis, Indians, South Africans, Kenyans, Ugandans, Tanzanians & so many more (including my own family) here in America.
Joy finds value in the rubble of decimated lives, because THOSE LIVES ARE VALUABLE. Joy comes from a well of Love & transports that love on wings of compassion that lift up the brokenhearted.
Joy finds roses in the rubble, something sometimes SO VERY HARD TO DO, but possible with God’s Help (lots of Heavenly Help!)
… & Joy is what this season of Advent is all about. Light coming into the darkness (some things haven’t changed much – Mary’s time period included Roman occupation, injustice, exploitation, slavery & more…)
Light incarnated = Emmanuel, God with Us
God’s Love + Peace + Grace + Mercy(for us) = Joy in our hearts
LIFE IS A GIFT…
Joy recognizes the Gift of Life within us & around us.
JOY IS A GIFT…
of heart, mind & spirit.
As we continue to pray for the hurting hearts in Connecticut, treasure the moments you have with your precious ones, as the families in Newtown treasure the moments they had. May the Light of God’s love comfort them in this time of mourning as they begin the process of laying (20) little & (6) big bodies to rest.
…& may God’s Gift of Joy begin lifting anguished hearts out of the darkness of death & into the Light of Life. For, Life truly is a Gift.
grace, peace & Gifts
P.S. ….After Friday’s horrific Horribles, I spent a little time ‘journaling’ with God (don’t be freaked out, it’s just a contemplative way to ‘document’ prayer time silently spent listening to that Still Small Voice…) Thought this short bit might be comforting…
“But Lord, I don’t understand!?!”
That’s OK, Precious Child.
Take My Hand
and I will lead & guide you
to a New Land,
where tears of joy fall
(if at all)
& No pain can touch your spirit:
Peace reigns all in all…