Can we really ‘choose joy’? I have identified with news articles and personal posts regarding the exhaustion of many people. There has been reports of the ‘great resignation’ and people leaving ministry due to burnout. The pandemic has its second anniversary this month and for many of us, we want it to be ‘over’. It is exhausting to continually be adapting and innovating daily. How can we plan and implement creative and joyful Messy Churches when we, as well as our volunteers, are tired and overwhelmed? How can we choose joy?
Joy is the oxygen for doing hard workGary Haugen
This past Sunday, as I lit our family advent candle of joy, I also read The Season of Almost, a 4-week advent devotional that I downloaded from Kate Bowler. In Sunday’s reflection, Metabolize Joy, she shared the story of Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission. For thirty years, Haugen has led organization in the difficult work of eradicating human trafficking around the world. Bowler wondered as she interviewed him, how he has avoided burnout or compassion fatigue? His answer was “Joy is the oxygen for doing hard work.” He discovered that by choosing to prioritize time to engage in moments of joy has led to his ability to find sustainability in his difficult work. For him, he finds joy by spending time playing with his children and also engaging in rigorous exercise.
For myself, I choose joy when I take a walk with our dog Jack, when I watch a comedy or old holiday movie at the end of the day with my husband, and when I laugh at my own imperfections (and at times my ‘to do’ list). I also have reminders to choose joy around my home. When I brush my teeth, I see a ceramic dish by the sink that simply says ‘joy’. I also place quotes around my office and house that remind me to choose joy.
How are you choosing joy this advent?
How are you choosing joy this advent? Have you been able to have Messy Church in person for the first time in a long time? Have you been able to connect with friends or family? Have you found joy in scripture? Have you spent anytime in nature?
Almost twenty years ago I was in the midst of discerning the call I was experiencing to leave my career of nursing and enter school to pursue a Masters of Divinity leading to the pastorate. On paper, it did not make sense logistically to move away from my family for a year to finish a degree while my two sons were in middle and elementary school. I went on my first silent retreat my spiritual director at the time and a group of women I did not know. Throughout the weekend, I prayed for God to show me the ‘right’ path. Then I discovered this verse from Psalm 16 that has become a favorite of mine:
You will make known to me the path of life;Psalm 16:11
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever
I had thought that my task was to hear God tell me which path to take, yet this answer from Psalm 16, helped me to realize that there was not one ‘correct’ path. The path I was called to follow was to simply place myself in the Presence of the Holy One. No matter which direction I headed, either nursing or the pastorate, God would be with me. I discovered that choosing joy, as Nouwen states in his quote above, is a daily spiritual practice. I am called to daily place my intention and attention to discover God’s presence through scripture, through music, through nature and even through a feisty dog! As I place my trust in God, I discover that paths of joy will open.
Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.Henri Nouwen
May you, and all of your messy friends, discover the fullness of joy as we enter into the final week of Advent this coming Sunday.
Grace and peace, Roberta