thoughts on joy through pain + sunday lunches
Do you ever have those moments where you are listening to someone talking and all of sudden, you nearly clap your hands on your face because something they said makes you feel like somehow, they have a one-way ticket, straight shot view into all the secret things buzzing through your head?
Yeah, that was me this morning.
My church and its amazing team of teachers have a history of unsettling its members and it’s something I’m unutterably grateful for. This morning, as we continued to piece through Ecclesiastes, something Rob said really shook me. He talked about the seemingly bipolar dichotomy that the writer of Ecclesiastes talks about — is life meaningless and full of despair, or should we enjoy and eat and drink? The write goes back and forth between these two opposites and we find ourselves asking the question, “Which one is it?” Rob ventured to suggest that perhaps it, in essence, is both. In facing a situation where we are so certain of the outcome, maybe it’s about first admitting that we don’t really have much control. Maybe it’s about facing the possibility that it will fail and not letting that dictate whether or not we keep going.
“It’s about finding joy through the trying.”
Now this isn’t necessarily a new idea, but for me, at this moment in my life, it struck me as if it was entirely new. As we shared in communion, I began to think about what this meant for me, where I am. I’ve been struggling lately with a certain brand of pain related to those ever-so-complicated “relationships” (you know the ones I mean). As I thought about what it meant to find joy through the trying, it seemed at first like an insurmountable hurdle. How do I find joy in working through the pain of loneliness, fear and self-doubt? Try as I might in the past, open as my arms have been to share my burdens with the One who asks for them, I still have never managed to erase the pain through the pursuit of joy.
Then it occurred to me: maybe it’s not about the joy banishing the pain or discomfort or sadness. Maybe it’s that the joy gives us something beyond the fear. Maybe it’s that the joy is what gets us through to the other side alive. Maybe the joy is the promise that there is actually something on the other side worth finding. Maybe this isn’t going to stop hurting. Maybe it isn’t supposed to. Maybe this simply has more to teach me, if I’m willing to learn.
Beyond the meaninglessness and “vapor,” maybe it’s about simply choosing to believe that He hasn’t left me alone.
So today, I choose to find joy in the trying. I came home, made a delicious (and healthy!) lunch, determined that in caring for my own body, in celebrating the simple healing of good food, I will find joy. It is amazing the wonder that a bowl of curried lentil soup, a herb salad and some spicy pickled carrots can do for a girl’s soul.
Now I’m enjoying the smell of bread baking, sipping some homemade chai (look for the recipe on this coming Nosh Friday!) and readying to bake off some whole wheat shortbread. (I know, I know…I’ve decided if they ever make a cooking show about me, it will be called “The Manic and Obsessive Chef.”)
Today, being exactly who I am, where I am, makes me feel beautiful.
How are you finding joy, right where you are?