Walking Our Faith: Does it spark joy?
Walking Our Faith
Like many of you, I’ve spent part of the last several weeks going through boxes that I’ve had stacked in my closet for years in an effort to let go of things which, in the words of the lifestyle guru Marie Kondo, do not spark joy.
Can it really be eight weeks ago that we began our quarantine? It feels impossibly long ago. We have lived through something that has changed and will continue to change the way we live. Perhaps that is the impetus behind this national surge of clearing out the old and reassessing what we want in our lives going forward.
In my own life, this pandemic has underlined how precious each day is and given how I spend my time added importance. As I created routines to give my day structure, I was forced to ask of each task, does this spark joy? If not, why am I doing it?
Last Saturday evening, I attended Mass at St. Mary’s for the first time in eight weeks. In an effort to keep us safe, we were allowed to have only nine people attend each service so that we could maintain a safe distance from one another.
As I sat alone in my pew, I thought of how grateful I felt to experience Mass, to participate in communion and partake of the Eucharist in person.
And that is when the question came to me. And now, I want to ask the same question of you: Whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or even an atheist, do your beliefs spark joy? Do your beliefs inspire you to be kind to your neighbor, to make a positive difference in this world? Does your relationship with God spark joy in your life?
We all have a relationship with God. Yes, even an atheist has a relationship with God. And when I ask whether that relationship sparks joy, I am not talking about the comical silliness that often becomes a parody of people who have deep faith.
The relationship with God that I am speaking of is not one where you are always happy and everything is always good and perfect and life is easy. Because that is not real life. That is certainly not the life that Jesus lived in the 30-some years he spent with us on Earth. And it is certainly not the life that any of us live.
More likely, our lives are a mixture of joy, contentment, despair and longing. We all hope that contentment and joy outweigh the other experiences.
And we bring that real self into our relationship with God, and our relationship with God is often an experience of all those emotions, as well.
There are times when we feel a beautiful closeness with God. Through communion, we experience God’s presence and know we are loved. There are other times when we travel through dark nights, when God’s silence or our heart breaking is more than we can bear.
So the joy that I am speaking of is not a panacea, and it is not dependent on how our life is going or how we are feeling at any given moment. Instead, it is the very deep knowing in our soul that we are loved by God, that we are surrounded by and held by and never without God’s love for us. And yes, it is possible to hold those completely contradictory feelings of love and abandonment in our hearts at the same moment.
That we can feel loved by God at the same moment that we even doubt his existence is our soul’s deep understanding of God’s love as our most reliable source of joy.
That’s what I felt Saturday night as the late spring sunlight streamed through the stained-glass window of Saint Mary’s and faded a little as it does over the course of every Saturday evening Mass.
I felt joy, and I want that same joy for you no matter where you go to church, no matter what beliefs you hold. I want you to seek and find a relationship with God that sparks joy in your heart. Only you can find that relationship, and you will if you actively look. God promised us, “If you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart.”
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, if you’ve never experienced this and wonder if it’s only for a privileged few, I assure you, it is not. It is a joy that already exists in every heart, only waiting for you to uncover it. And when you do, you will discover that the “joy of the Lord is your strength.” And it will make all the difference in your life.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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