When asked, “What is joy?” Rev. Willie James Jennings of Duke Divinity School responds, “I look at joy as an act of resistance against despair and all its forces.” He goes on to explain that when he says despair, he means, “all the ways in which life can be presented to us as not worth living.”
This definition of joy resonates within me as staying open to joy requires a rebellious heart and a willingness to embrace life even as we struggle during these times. Lately, I’ve found joy in the little things like holding the hand of a loved one in the hospital, watching my child teach the neighbor child how to ride their bike, hot tea on a cold day and getting to bless a baby as the snow falls.
I believe joy is a part of our life inheritance because joy is so indomitable, intertwined so intrinsically with life that it exists even in despair. I know I have found it even there.
When we find laughter together in the midst of suffering or gather together in a ritual of remembrance that celebrates our beloveds, we find joy can exist even in our sorrow. Joy offers us a moment of transcendence in these moments and creates a connection with something beyond ourselves that is sacred and worthy.
Being open to joy, cultivating joy in our lives requires a grateful heart that celebrates our blessings as it acknowledges the possibility of suffering and loss. We are not grateful or joyful without a sense of wonder at our aliveness and relationships that connects us to the world.
Joy as an act of resistance, let this be an action we take every day.
Let us make opening to joy something we put on our holiday list and check it off whenever we find it. And then put it on the list again every day we wake up and breathe in air and smile at those we love and keep getting to live.
May we be exemplars of intention to one another, sharing gratitude, acknowledging all the little things that add up to name and claim joy.
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education