Joy: is there a more beautiful word in the English language? Is there a more allusive quality in human experience?
Joy is rooted or related, in some degree, to contentment. And, for most of us, contentment is difficult. We want. We desire. We feel empty, incomplete, and unsatisfied. And, so, we find discontentment rather easily, while joyful contentment remains allusive.
For much of the past six months, I have had a project. I wanted to complete a collection that I have been working to amass over the past 25 years. I wanted the complete recordings of The Beatles on compact disc. Not a noble pursuit, to be certain, but a desire that has been with me for a long, long time. And in my wanting, I flew caution to the wind and went on a buying spree.
Obviously, this situation is not earth-shattering or life-crippling, but I am afraid it shows something of my character. I struggle with the joy that is contentment, and it is a struggle that has significantly affected me. I am impulsive about many things, and I am convinced that dissatisfaction is the culprit.
I’m ever looking for the greener grass. I’ve done so with things: desiring to acquire more and more stuff because of the perception that these things would add some fullness to my life. I’ve done so professionally: growing dissatisfied with what I am currently doing and desiring new works. But, now that I’m on the cusp of having lived fifty years, I think I’m beginning to see the folly of looking for the greener grass. In reality, that search is the pursuit of what I already have.
Contentment is recognition. Contentment is gratitude. Contentment is perception and perspective. Contentment is the refusal to buy the lie that has been told since Eden. That lie? It is simply: more is better.
Adam and Eve lived in a place of abundance. They had all they needed. Yet, the tempter sold them the lie, more is better. And like the couple of Aesop’s fable who killed the golden goose, they lost all in their pursuit of more.
The allusiveness of joy comes from greed . . . and a large dose of forgetfulness. We forget what we already have. We forget that green grass is growing at our feet. We forget the graces that we have already be shown.
Interestingly, the word “joy” in Scripture comes from the Greek “chara,” which is related to “charis,” or “grace.” Thus, joy is a gift. Or, perhaps better stated, joy is the realization that we have been shown grace. In other words, we are blessed. Our joy is not the product of more. It is not the product of new. It is not the product of better. No, our joy is rooted in grace . . . God’s grace.
Take a look around you. Don’t inventory what you don’t have. Take stock of what you do have. Be grateful. Be joyful. Be contented. Don’t seek to buy what you already have. The grass is rarely greener.
When the third Magical Mystery Tour CD came to me in the mail, my first thought was to return it to Amazon, but then I decided to keep it as a reminder of my folly. I need these reminders.
Joy is a work in progress. It is never a constant state. Fortunately, I think that Jesus offered us a tip for keeping joy alive when he prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.”