I just want to wax poetic (read: gush) about a favorite word of mine. Joy. It really is one of my favorites. I might just be guilty of overusing it. I prefer it to its synonyms such as “happiness” or “gladness”. “Delight” may be my next favorite synonym. But “joy” is just a sweet word, and it’s been woven into my life so unmistakably. C.S. Lewis wrote about it, and has many wonderful ways of describing joy: “all joy… emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings”. He wrote that joy is “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction”, and he wrote of a feeling he once had, a memory of a memory, describing it as a “sensation of desire… and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased”. He wrote a few paragraphs later, “I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described… and then found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it”.
It’s the most fleeting sensation I’ve ever felt, joy, and I’m slowly seeing why it’s been given to us. I find joy in small things most often. I find it in Creation. The drizzling rain anytime, or driving rain when I’m cozy at home. A solemn grey sky. A forest thick with trees. Cold, dewy mornings in early spring. I find it in glimmering love. I find it in a baseball game. I find it in poetry. I find it in language, silly as I am, and among my books, when an author uses just the right words, perfect descriptors and ever so unusual in their coupling. I find it among friends, when talking of shared interests and we finally hit on exactly why we love what we love (because when you not only love the same things, but have the same reasons for that love, you know you’ve got a Friend). I find it in the sweet moments of recognizing that I’m not alone in my fascination for ______. But it’s always only ever a cursory sensation. Sometimes it’s a quiet whisper of joy, stealing my breath for a split second, and when I’ve got my breath back, I’m scratching my head, unable to put my finger on whatever it was that took it away. Sometimes, it’s loud and boisterous, and I want to do cartwheels, but by the time I’m upright on my feet again, I feel a little foolish for the outburst, finding I cannot explain it, though I’m quite sure it was justified. Whichever flavor of joy it is, my heart begins to swell, and just as I become aware of that, and want to savor it, the feeling is already fading, faded, gone. It’s a desirous desire. It’s an unsatisfied satisfaction. It’s a hint that there’s more satisfaction behind whatever I enjoy. Lewis said (forgive me for quoting him so many times, but it was he who showed me just how much my life has been about joy) “considered only in its quality, [joy] might almost equally as well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want”. And it is, it absolutely is. It’s generally grievous, the moment it begins to dim. Because there’s a feeling in that joy, that momentary delight, that suggests an infinite spring. It is better than food when I am hungry or water when I thirst. Every time, I get the feeling that if the sensation would only stay, I would be fully, eternally satisfied. Every time, in the next second, I am filled with a fierce longing.
For so long, when that gladness faded, I would chase after it in whatever had last evoked it. But I’ve given up on things, because I never was able to reproduce it at will. So many books unfinished, because I thought reading was a primary source of my happiness. Countless moments with my pen frozen above paper, thinking that writing would fill me. I once–or twice, or thrice–used friends as a crutch for the same reason. But it’s been dawning on me (for years now… slowest sunrise ever) what that joyousness is for. It’s given by God to bring us back to Himself. When I feel first delighted, then deflated, when I yearn for that sensation to return, I’m learning what my response ought to be. I ought to fling myself headlong into the Word of God, the presence of God. I should run and dive into the mysteries of Jesus Christ. For it is there that eternal satisfaction is found. Jesus said to the woman at the well, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. Where else will I find such everlasting delight, but in the infinite God who delights in me?
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3
(Bonus that I happened upon last spring… the word “joy” in Greek is χαρα or chara. My first name and middle initial flipped, then, mean “of joy” in Greek. sarahc…charas. Yes, these are the little bits of connections in language that delight me, even when they are entirely coincidental.)