*The audio link of my reading is at the bottom.
How do you lose joy? She must have failed to hold onto it. Perhaps she’d forgotten it completely, left it in a corner, and it had wandered off, hoping to find a home where it wouldn’t be neglected. “I’ve lost my joy,” she tells her husband, and he nods.
Oh dear, it’s noticeable! she thinks.
Where do you begin looking for joy?
She tries singing as she does the tasks that annoy her most. She hums as she packs the children’s lunches, warbles in the car, belts it out when she de-clutters the living room.
Where are you, joy? she wonders, I can’t sing any louder. Can’t you hear me?
She tries putting on a show of it. Didn’t she hear a pastor say once that the outward action of love can kindle the feeling?
Or was that her college drama director talking about action and emotion?
She’s not sure, but she tries it.
Smile, she tells herself.
She shoves grumpiness down. She swats selfish thoughts like pesky gnats.
Joy, come back! Please.
She is sitting, alone at her desk, absorbed in work, when she senses a presence nearby.
Joy? Are you there? I caught a glimpse of you.
But when the house bustles again, when children’s squabbles break the quiet—joy recedes.
Oh, she realizes, I am allowing the noise to drive joy away. But joy doesn’t have to have peace and quiet. Joy doesn’t mind chaos, excitement.
I haven’t lost joy.
I’ve sent it away.
I am telling it when it can be present, and when it can’t.
How do I invite joy into my full life—all of it? How do I keep from shutting it out?
Still missing joy, she goes to the Good Friday service.
It is good to reflect, to be with others, all reflecting together.
They sing, they read, they listen.
But she is waiting, though she doesn’t know what she is waiting for.
There is something here for me tonight, she thinks. I’m not sure how I know this, but I do.
The sermon is finished. They have taken communion. Her shoulders slump. It was good, but…
The pastor speaks again. “Some of you have lost your joy,” he says. “You’ve lost the joy of your salvation, your redemption. Come to the cross.”
Her hands tremble.
Her body feels light.
She knows this is for her.
It may be for others as well, but it is clearly for her.
But she will have to get up, cross the room, walk in front of so many sets of eyes.
He is still speaking. “Come. We will pray for you, that here at the cross you will remember your source of joy.”
She gets up, quick.
Her husband, beside her, stands, too.
“Do you want me to come with you?”
By the time they reach the cross, there are others.
I am not the only one, she thinks. We have all lost joy.
Pastors pray. She hears only snatches of their words over the music.
But that is all right, because it is the song she needs to hear.
“Behold the man upon the cross,
My sin upon his shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there…”
Somehow, in the second of space before the next line of the song, she experiences guilt, sorrow, despair. I did send you there. It was my sin. It was my selfishness. Oh God, I love You, but I don’t know how to stop hurting You. I am unable to pull my thoughts away from myself, away from what I am feeling or not feeling.
All this in a God-stretched moment.
“Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life—
I know that it is finished.”
Stop, she commands herself. See truth. Christ does not have to die again. He has done it! I AM redeemed. It is not the chaos that is driving joy away; it is my fear that when I sink into moodiness, into selfishness, that I have stepped out of redemption. But that can never be. He finished it.
“I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no pow’r, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
But this I know with all my heart,
His wounds have paid my ransom.”
Paid, accomplished, finished—in a transaction that is outside the scope of time. It is not undone when she grows grumpy yet again, not taken back when she fails or is petty. She looks up at the Christ figure on the cross. Through that finished work, she tellsherself, I am redeemed. My sin does not for one single moment make that untrue. It is present and ongoing, without conditions. Without resting at all on me. I can have joy IN my grumpiness. It is not limited only to when I am feeling peaceful and good but is a reality even when I am fully aware of my own sinful nature.
She feels her husband’s hands on her shoulders. They have been there all along. She just now senses their gentle weight.
“Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders”
He took it from me—and He abolished it. Why do I try to carry what He has already taken?
The load rolls off.
And joy resurrects.