This past weekend I crossed a serious milestone towards finding my path; I gave the sermon at a local church. Mind you I am not a member of the clergy, but for the past 9 years I have been in a serious search for my spiritual self and in the past 5 years I have thought off and on about applying to seminary. Maybe it was no coincidence that I found myself in a pulpit this Sunday.
I must admit it was a rather strange feeling. But I had reached out to several friends who are members of the clergy as well as my own father who is a retired pastor for guidance on what exactly one says to a church. Sure, no one was expecting me to get all Apostle like but I wanted to share something meaningful so in the end I spoke from the heart on my own personal approach to life.
I have had several people ask me if I would share that sermon in this space and while I will do that; in light of the horrific acts at the Boston Marathon, it feels even more like a moment for sharing. Whoever committed these acts of terror meant to steal the happiness of the moment but they will never steal the joy. Our joy goes further than any specific moment or event and lives in us even in minutes of the unexplainable and the horrific.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I have been in the helping business for the past fifteen years. Prior to going into the helping business, I was in sales and marketing- a sector that while very lucrative was lacking in the joy factor.
It was through my own experience of finding God that I was led to make the career shift or maybe I should say I was directed. The funny or not so funny thing though is that in the last 15 years I have seen my fair share of less than joyous experiences and people.
One of my earliest jobs in my new field was working as the house manager at a facility for women trying to get out of prostitution. I was a fresh faced twenty something year old pumped up on the Lord and eager to help. That might sound great but really it was a recipe for disaster.
All of the women that I worked with and met had been dealt what many would consider to be the losing hand of cards in this game we call life. One woman in particular had one of the saddest hands and is one of those people who has stayed with me all of these years. She was a recovering addict, struggling to regain custody of her kids and she herself was the product of incest. Her father was her grandfather. The details of her life were horrible yet despite what she had faced and what she continued to face, she always had a smile on her face; her spirit and infectious will to live were hard to ignore. She had joy, real joy not based on changeable factors but her joy came from her faith and understanding that there was more to this journey we call life than what we can see with our limited eyes.
True joy is always beneath the surface and sustains us in the hard moments of life. It is that quiet place in our being that knows, it is okay no matter what.
Happiness most certainly feels good and in many ways it feels better than joy but happiness is fleeting and never lasts. Until we learn the difference between happiness and joy we are constantly subject to the winds of change. We lose our jobs, partners, maybe even our health and too many times these events will steal our happiness but they don’t have to steal our joy.
Joy is often imbedded in us when we surrender ourselves and trust in that which is higher than ourselves. For me that is my personal faith in God through his son Jesus Christ. Trusting in what many consider to be the great unknown is a leap of faith but the rewards for those who choose to take that leap can be numerous and can include an inner joy that is unshakeable in the midst of any storm.
Joy is what I see regularly in my work with societies most vulnerable. Joy is what allows the child whose parents must take him to the local soup kitchen regularly in order to eat a hot meal to still have a smile on his face despite having under what many would consider to be less than joyous circumstances. Joy is the teenage girl who can never partake in the so called joys that her peers are able to do yet she finds joy in being of service to others.
I encourage you to seek joy, to pray, to meditate and to trust in that great unknown.
End of sermon (this was an excerpt)
In light of yesterday’s events I am reminded that there are simply things we will never have answers for, why would anyone want to harm innocent people? We don’t know why, but we know that these things happen and that there are people who walk amongst us who seem to lack any connection to that which makes us all human. Yet we cannot allow such beings to steal our light and our joy. Many are trying to make sense of the senseless and while it is most certainly the role of law enforcement to figure this out. If we allow ourselves to settle and focus on these acts for too long we risk losing a part of ourselves. Instead look for the joy and as Fred Rogers said “Look for the helpers.”