Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Searching for Joy

by Tom Fairman

Of my children who can express an opinion, there are none that have expressed a strong interest in football. Recently there has been some attendance at after school football sessions, but football on the television or radio is actively rallied against. With this in mind, it came as a massive shock when my littlest one decided to take his first independent steps.
As a parent, the first steps are a huge moment and often highly debated. There are the hand held, but only for guidance first steps, followed by the falling down whilst stepping first steps until they actually make a decision to move without provocation. The first time I saw my youngest take these unsolicited steps was to try to kick a ball that was slightly out of their reach. Kicking things or stamping on them whilst holding onto a chair had been a favourite hobby for a while so the surprise which arose in me when I saw this was unexpected. It was followed by a moment of happiness that I may have a kindred spirit for my football interest, that lasted only a moment before the obligatory collapse on the floor and tears that follow an unintentional step-over accompanied by hitting your head on a cupboard.
It was a moment that lasted only for a split second and the joy that accompanied it lasted for just as long. This seems a little bit cold hearted but let me explain. When something like this happens, particularly when it takes you by surprise, there is an initial pause to take stock of what has happened. Did I really just see that? Did it actually happen? The reality goes further once it has cleared this initial hurdle and takes a direct path to your heart. It touches something deep inside of you, making you feel, to take the words of better men, fully alive. You feel as if you will burst with a mixture of happiness, bliss and pride; some people cry, others stop in awe and yet the feeling goes deep and feels stronger than anything else.
It is beyond the satisfaction of achieving something you have worked hard for. It is more than the happiness or relief of your team winning. It is passed the amazement of finally getting the gift you always wanted. It is all of this and more, bound together and if you excuse the inaccuracy, multiplied by infinity. This joy is on a completely divine level, but it is a rarity. No sooner has the feeling touched the core of who you are, then it is attacked by thoughts that guard our hearts. What have you done to deserve this? Were you this happy when the others walked? Will others be jealous that this this happened to you? Then the moment has gone, the joy is stolen away from you.
A lot of the time, particularly in our leisure time, we search for this elusive moment of joy. We do the things that make us feel good, we search out the experiences in the past where we came close to this feeling before. Think about what hobbies you choose to do and why you do them. Are we searching for something in the past that can not be reclaimed? This true joy is real, but if you are anything like me, as soon as you find it, it goes away for a long time.

CS Lewis wrote a book on the subject called Surprised by Joy, where he talks about these mountain top moments that appear to come out of the blue and I would like to extend this further. Our insecurities surround the very core of who we are, claiming to defend our hearts from hurt, but in reality, preventing anything from touching us deeply, whether good or bad. To really experience this joy, it almost has to take us unaware. If we consciously seek it, it always seems to be in the corner of our eye, never quite in view and we start to seek it in more extreme ways or using a greater quantity of time. For those lucky few who seem to have their joy complete, joy seems to come to them and yet they do not seek it in their past. They seem to just be open to it in their present. If you dispose your heart to accepting what life is offering to you, you will collect more of what is out there. If God is truly good and joy is a gift, then it will be freely given to those who are open to receive it.
We need to take down the insecurities that prevent us from believing we deserve good things, remove the lies that say what other people think matters. We need to stop believing that only bad things happen to us and receive the good that is offered. When we do this, I am sure we can be surprised by that divine joy.

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