Skip to main content

Being Joyful: Lessons from a skunk and my aunt

I've written on this before, but let's just go over this again: happiness and joy are NOT the same thing.

Happiness is always temporary, and always about external circumstances. It is fleeting. It is of this world. It's not bad, but it's not the be-all-and-end-all of life.

Joy, on the other hand, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a state that relies on faith, on the eternalness of God. It is a glimpse of Heaven on earth. It is what every person of faith should strive for.

Let's look at an example that gets this all wrong, shall we?


“I’m really trying not to let this experience steal my joy but it’s hard” — An owner of an Hermes bag that apparently smells like a skunk. She’s not alone; a large batch of bags reportedly smell. Devastating.

(If you're not aware, a Hermes purse can cost upwards of $20,000 easily. I'm not kidding.)

I feel bad for this lady. Not because her purse smells like a skunk (although that IS really disgusting) but because she thinks she is going to find the gift of the Holy Spirit in a hunk of leather you throw your car keys and cell phone in.  She thought that by getting this purse, true joy would enter her life. See, she's confusing happiness ("I got a pretty new purse!") with joy ("I am a child of God! No circumstance can rob me of my inheritance!")

I was sifting through a bunch of old greeting cards the other day. I was both cleaning out a drawer and trying to find some materials for scrapbooking (meaning I was going to chop up the cards.) I kept a few from the kids, with their barely-able-to-write scrawls, but most of them got cut up. 

Then I stopped. I found a card from my Aunt Ruth. It was a birthday card, dated more than a decade ago. Her familiar handwriting jumped off the card - a few simple sentences. That card I kept.

My Aunt Ruth was my pen pal of sorts. We wrote each other regularly, starting when I was in about 8th grade. Her letters and cards were always filled with her faith, her laughter (she had the best laugh - I cannot WAIT to hear that laugh again in Heaven!), her connection with her church, her friends, her family. She cherished people. She had a "club" of girlfriends from high school that had weekly lunch from pre-World War II until the last one died in her 90s. 

Aunt Ruth is who I think of when I think of joy. Regardless of what was going on around her, she laughed, she took time for people, she listened, she prayed. She was not a prophet, but rather an illustration - a painting of the Master's hand of what joy is meant to be.

She would have laughed at the poor lady with the skunky person. Not to make fun of the poor woman (really: poor. This lady has no idea what wealth means), but because Aunt Ruth knew that joy was not to be purchased, or draped over your arm. It is an rich out-pouring of a God who cannot be out-spent, out-done, out-lavished. And that is joy.

Comments

  1. This was really a thought provoking article. Your impression of Aunt Ruth is spot on, that is how I alway saw Aunt Ruth, a joyful person.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

I love comments, even if you don't agree, but please don't leave anonymous posts. A well-mannered reader leaves a name!

Popular posts from this blog

Trying to "end run" God

If you're a football fan, you know what an end run is. From Merriam-Webster:
a football play in which the ballcarrier attempts to run wide around the end of the line We try to "end run" God a lot. I do. I figure I know better. I've got this - no need to worry the Big Guy about such a trivial thing.

Of course, it never works.

Like the puppy above, when we try and evade the tough obstacle (even though we KNOW we will eventually have to do it), we end up - well, off in the bushes.

But oh! How I wished my way worked. I'd love to take a flying leap and land smoothly and gracefully. People would be in awe, as if watching Simone Biles nail a balance beam routine that no one else would even attempt. I would shyly look down and blush - just lightly - and acknowledge (But humbly! Oh so humbly!) my achievement.

But no: I am the one pulling myself out of the bushes, scratches all over my legs and twigs in my hair. I'd hear that gentle but loving voice of God saying, &quo…

Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.

Be Transfigured

From today's readings: 

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the and his clothes became white as light.

...we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. For whatever reason, Jesus brought three of His disciples to Mount Tabor to witness this miracle. They weren't sure what they were seeing, but they knew enough to throw themselves to the ground in the presence of Almighty God. St. Peter (who never did anything halfway) excitedly declares that he will erect tents on the mountain as a way of memorializing the event. But Jesus tells him and the others that they are not to tell people what they witnessed - at least not yet.

In the second reading, the requirement to be quiet has bee…