I think I wanted to believe that joy could be chosen, the way gratitude is dug out from the landscape of each day or the way a flower is plucked from a field. If my circumstances aren't going to change, I reasoned, I'll find a way to live above them - in joy. It's a message I've heard often, and I'm not arguing it here as much as wondering if there's not more to it than this. More to it than "choosing" joy.
For a long time, I've earmarked those ancient words in the Psalms, the ones that say "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." They drip with hope, no? But the way I've understood them has also been a weight around my heart.
What about when the night shows no sign of surrendering to daylight? What about when the morning comes accompanied, not with joy, but with double-lidded eyes and a sorrow hangover from the restless night before?
I wrestle with my soul, and in the end, I know. I am not the one who changes seasons. Positive or 'faith-filled' thinking does not turn the night to day or call forth the morning, only turns a light on in the darkness.
I came across these beautiful words a few days ago, and my insides leapt in recognition and all my 'shoulds' dropped to the floor:
"There is a time when ashes give way to beauty, but before we hold that in our hand and call our cup overflowing, I believe we must fully mourn what has been consumed by the ash... And I know, now, the way you know something whether anyone ever agrees with you or not, that joy is not what lasts. Joy is nice and sunshine is good. But it is not eternal. What remains, what has always remained, like those arms that hold us in everlast, is love."
I knew, right then, that my word from the start, the one I didn't want to speak because it seemed too cliche and overdone, is love. Only love.
Love that holds us in the mourning, in the emptying. Love that kneels with us in the smoldering ash. Love that heals. Love that binds up wounds. Love that turns the seasons, stays awake through the night and rises the sun in the morning. Love that fills and spills over the sides of the cup. Love that clothes in a new garment, the one of joy, when the time has come, and beckons, Come, take a walk with me.
Give me love, I cry, and this will be my bread and water come night or day. And I will wait, for the new, unscripted song to rise.
[Closing with one of my favorite songs from 2012, still singing into 2013...]