This week in the advent calendar is Joy… it’s a word I have long struggled to explain or even comprehend. Joy has become synonymous with happy and yet in my own experiences of joy it hasn’t felt like happy.
While I lived in Austria I experienced a time that many poets call the dark night of the soul. I have written about that time in previous posts (a 12 part series on the beginning). I had experienced a broken engagement and in that time I felt all the things that one feels when a relationship fails. I was discouraged, scared that I was destined to be alone, feeling like a failure for failing in that relationship, struggling to understand my place in the world and where I fit. It was there, in that dark night of the soul that God met me, he revealed himself to me in a way that renewed every part of me, made me a new person, fired a passion in me that still lives today. I was sitting in my window on night, worship music was blasting all around me and despite my sad thoughts and frustrated feelings I felt a deep sense of what could only be described as joy. It was a beautiful, deeply moving feeling that came not from happiness but rather from being known, being loved, not by another person but by the creator of the universe. I didn’t feel small in the world, despite sitting at the foot of a mountain, I felt like I could move that mountain with a whispered prayer because somehow God had lifted me up, given me that strength and the love that I so desperately needed. I don’t feel that joy all the time, but whenever I think of Joy, that is the feeling that I remember; that brokenness that was met by grace and lifted me out of the depths to see the heights that God had/has in store for me. I have felt joy like that since, but never as acutely as I did in those months in that castle in the mountains of Austria. There are times, like now, that I long to feel that again and I try to replicate it with other things but the truth of the matter is that I won’t be able too. Joy comes not from our own maneuvering but rather when the Holy Spirit moves us. Those months I was steeped in the word of God, I was in a constant state of worship, I felt like I was sitting in God’s lap and he was holding me tight, snuggling me and comforting me and like a child who is hurt and needs the lap of a Mom for comfort I too was hurt and needing a lap to rest in. The hurt didn’t leave, much like the ouchie that the child has doesn’t just stop hurting, but the pain lessened with the comfort I found there, made it easier to manage. There was hope, in placing all of myself into the arms of a loving God I had given him the control of my life that I knew innately would lead me to safe ground and in that hope, in that trust, in that love is where I found joy.
This week, as we work wait for Christmas in such difficult times I urge you to carve out time to crawl up in God’s lap, sit there, allow his arms to comfort you, allow his mercy and grace to fill you with the love and hope and trust that leads to joy. Let it fill you, let it move you.