We’ve been a little underwater around here lately. A little underwater with All the Things. I mean, it’s one thing when everything Runs Smoothly and goes According to Plan, and it’s another thing entirely when we start the school year with two vomiters, a monkey-bars-related broken arm, two lost dogs, one lost child, four trips to the pediatrician, and the growing suspicion that one kid has actual, significant hearing loss instead of just selective hearing loss like all the others.
It’s been a week is what I’m saying.
A WEEK, you know?
And I found myself rather exhausted at certain points of it, which I believe makes me Just Like All the Other Mommies out there. Or Just Like All the Other Humans, I bet; rather exhausted and having a week of it.
I find it’s tricky to Hang Onto Joy in the midst of Exhaustion. Hard to Cling Fast to Joy, which keeps me afloat. My fingers are as weary as the rest of me, and Joy slips away quietly when I’m too tired to notice as I sink a little more into the murky water with a little less air to breathe.
I curled my hair this morning and sprayed it with hair spray and dry shampoo, hoping they would disguise my lack of shower hygiene well enough to “pass” as Having My Crap Together. I pulled on my jeans and the shirt my teenager told me to wear, and poured myself a cup of coffee, my security blanket, for the short walk out my back gate to the adjacent church which we attend.
My Dansko sandals were too high and wobbly for me to walk well on the gravel path that took me to the back door of the church, where I always enter, and I couldn’t help but think what an accurate picture it is of my engagement with God — wobbly, a little off center, through the back door, yet somehow still upright and eager to enter in. Somehow still eager to engage Love in this way. Somehow still hoping to hear from this community I trust how to discover and rediscover Joy, on repeat.
Look; I know we’re all in different places when it comes to our understanding of God and faith and religion. That’s OK. I LOVE that about us; it’s one of my favorite things here. And I know and constantly mourn the ways people who identify as Christian have and continue to spiritually and emotionally abuse our neighbors; it was impossible for me for years to call myself Christian for that reason, eschewing the title for “Jesus follower” or no name at all. And yet there’s a reason I still go to this church and a reason I took back up the Christian mantle, and it’s this: these people also reject the wounding of others, and they keep pointing me back to Joy. And back to Grace. And back to Hope. And back to ways to Love our neighbors as ourselves.
My friend, Nate, took the pulpit this morning. He’s a redhead with a beard and an Eeyore-meets-Owl personality full of ho hum sometimes and wisdom always, though he doesn’t always believe that last bit, and he brews the most amazing beer. Nate’s one of my safe people; the kind I can face-plant in front of and be utterly myself, even when I’m petty and selfish or wildly immature, and so I listen carefully to Nate because I trust him.
This morning, Nate talked about joy, and I sat on the pew along the wall in the back, looking at the God-awful yellow and green carpet in that sanctuary, feeling exhausted, yes, and a tiny bit refilled. A tiny bit refilled because Nate didn’t demand joy from me but guided me carefully to a back door to find it lurking there, waiting.
Nate reminded me that Joy is always there, unbounded in Love’s presence.
Nate reminded me that Joy is there when we allow our encounters with God to matter.
Nate reminded me that Joy is there when we pay attention to God — God, whom I call by God’s other name, Love, when “God” is too much and too murky for me to understand.
Nate reminded me that Joy is there when we pay attention to the urgent movement of Love in our lives, and that Love, indeed, is always on the move.
Joy isn’t just about being happy, friends; it’s about collaborating with Love and working together in such complete harmony that we can’t help but spill that Love out onto others.
So just in case you, like me, are a bit underwater today… just in case you, like me, slipped away from the Joy which keeps us afloat… just in case you, like me, needed the reminder that Love is always on the move and seeking us out… and just in case you, like me, want to be on the lookout for the magic in the mess… I thought I’d invite you to swim with me for the surface. Swim with me for the surface, buoyed by Love and each other, friends.
With Love… and some Joy to boot,