Saturday, January 5, 2013

Joy To The World

     What is joy? During this season of Joyeax Noel, I've been looking at this question. My first thought of joy was a smiling child holding a present, the torn wrapping scattered on the floor. A nice picture, but I think it falls short. After all, this scene can be changed simply by taking the toy away from the child. Instantly that child's face shows not joy but grief and loss. Is joy this easily lost?
     In looking at my own life, sometimes it has seemed this fleeting. In moments of fear, joy escaped me. When I was depressed or alone it vanished. Most poignantly, when I am sinning or pursuing my own goals and plans, joy is replaced with worry and stress.
     And yet... for the last few months, when all of the above has been true, I have had joy. It started in September with the stress and rush of getting everything done to be ready to leave and doing lots of my two least favorite things, shopping and saying goodbye. It continued in October, as I saw myself going smoothly through the transitions of culture shock. In November, it supported me as I moved into my host home in Brobo. Alone and barely able to communicated, going through the depths of culture shock I had joy. Even now as I have a rising load of work, a load that is daunting to even the most optimistic of people, it is there. As I'm saying goodbye to these dear people in Brobo, who have taught me, cared for me, and patiently helped me understand their culture, I have joy.
    This joy is entirely separate from the emotional waves of my life. It is a constant, steady, and unyeilding presence. Sadness is reminded that it will last only a moment. Excitement and happiness are seen as wind blowing in the trees. It pushes me to keep trying to learn more French and make myself understood though I've failed at the same expression a hundred times before. It forgives me when I stumble on cultural etiquette. it comforts me when I miss my family and all the conveniences and familiarities of my life up to this point. When I am alone, it gently reminds me to breath and take in the peace and solitude. In a way, this joy is a corrective lens for my nearsighted emotions.
    And so comes Christmas, Joyeaux Noel. I sing "Joy to the World," and wonder, if the world knew this joy how would it be different? Or rather, How wouldn't it change?

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