Looking for Joy

IMG_2406Grabbing my finger, the little two-year-old, so full of excitement, pulled with determination.

“Where is Joy hiding this morning, Abigail?”

“Doy, Gramma, Doy!”

Sure enough, she was tugging me into the living room to discover the hiding place of a cute little toy elf named Joy.

“Where is Joy? Is she under the couch? How about on the windowsill? Where could she be?”

Soon enough her eyes caught the bright red outfit of the doll smiling at her from some lit up branches. Shivering with excitement she kept laughing and cooing over her find.

“Doy, Gramma, Doy!”

This little search reminded me a bit of my own trek toward joy, an elusive yet admirable quest. Not as determined as my little friend, I had accepted sadness over being unable to find this great emotion. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I feel joy? The angels announced in Luke 2: 10, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  Well then, shouldn’t all Christians feel joy? Jesus’ birth brought it! But the more I pursued, something kept getting in the way.

Closing my eyes, I visualize myself searching for what gets in the way of joy. I am surprised to find that it is I, myself, who keeps blocking my pathway. Perhaps it is my little self, the one named Dee Dee, who represents the little girl I used to be. I find myself speaking to her saying, “Get out of the way!  Why do you insist on stepping in front of me? What is wrong with you?”

Any guesses as to why I kept finding her there?

Maybe it was because she needed me to look at her. She needed to be seen and loved…by me. Already my Father God had me in His sights. His eyes beheld my unformed body long before today. It was me who did not have eyes for me. I kept pushing her out of the way and lecturing her about the ways she was not-quite-right, figuring that this was just one more thing she couldn’t figure out.

So that’s it.

Opening my eyes, I realize that what I saw was my old pattern. Today I am much better at stopping, listening to and respecting myself than ever before. Journaling often helps me pay attention to how I feel. I speak to myself kindly with more patience, recognizing my strengths and allowing weaknesses.

To my delight, I have found that joy is not quite so elusive. The sun-sparkle on the snow, the welcoming eager smile of our granddaughter, times of worship, the pure truth of scripture, all bring me to Joy Himself. And I feel it.

Mary Oliver writes,  “Love yourself. Then forget it. Then love the world.” I write: Love yourself. Then you are free to love Jesus and others. You will find joy in the process.”

“Doy, Gramma, Doy,”

Yes, Abigail, Doy is waiting. Let’s go look for her.