As soon as the week began, I questioned why I had placed “Joy” so early in the line-up of Easter Practices. Is joy not the culmination practice? And why did I place it right at the start of the week when my tasks filled with work, to-do lists, and endless tasks yet to be accomplished?
Joy can feel like the hardest state of being to occupy, for there always seems to be countless reasons that all is not well, at least in totality. This is not to deny the times when joy is so overwhelming that it flows with abandon. The parents cradle the newborn baby. The trials of pregnancy and the pain of labor is over. The graduate holds the hard-earned degree. The long nights and persistent dedication have ended with frameable results. The Olympic athlete lifts high the gold medal. Years of dedication and sacrifice have paid off. Witnesses grin, sharing in the contagious joy.
By Friday, I was back to the drawing board, working to find the gift within my Joy practices that I had found during the week. I reflected and reflected, continuing to wonder if I put these weeks in the wrong order. Joy should have been at the end. When I abandoned my regret for Joy’s early placement is when I finally realized that Easter Joy might be precisely in the middle places.
Easter Joy is the overflowing satisfaction that comes in the middle spaces when the winning results are not in, the fruit of our labor does not yet rest in our arms, and the medal of achievement is not guaranteed. Easter Joy is the rest that we are given in the thick of the journey when the day is still filled with practices, papers, and doctors appointments. Easter Joy is the gift when babies, degrees, and gold medals are days, months, and years away, or possibly never ours to receive.
1 John writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”
I scribbled in my journal this week’s adaptation: Beloved, we are given Easter Joy now; what it will birth within us has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when joy is given, it will not be about us but will be about the revealed Christ in our presence.
Easter Joy is the state of peace and satisfaction that does not rest on our completed accomplishment or verified ending that justifies rejoicing. Joy is not a product of our labor or a reward for our brilliance. In fact, Easter Joy is not anything that we do or have. It is entirely about Jesus, Love-Made-Flesh, that has been revealed. Easter Joy is what is.
Easter Joy is now because it is not mine to earn but God’s to give.
Easter Joy is now because it is not mine to deserve but Christ’s peace to be.
Easter Joy is now because it is independent of outcome, achievement, or ending.
Easter contentment and satisfaction is the unexpected gift in the middle of the journey when nothing is guaranteed, reasons to fear mount, but we continue to cling to hope that defies our fears.
To practice Easter Joy is to practice pausing and giving thanks, abandoning human effort for the moment in order to fall into what is already true and is waiting for my soul to grasp.
“Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.”
– Wendell Berry, “The Wild Geese”
I rest in a state of being that is a gift to enter. I cannot live here permanently, as I must pick up human effort again to walk out into the world and love my neighbor. But it is the way station along the way. It is the well of water on the journey. It is the friend by my side who encourages my labor by reminding me that its worth comes not in the fruit produced but in the unknown ways that Jesus’ presence is revealed.
What will be is unknown. What we do know is this: The joy we need is here, now.
I pause, give thanks, and abandon myself to this gift.