Finding my name: The battle for joy.

I’ll be honest.

I haven’t been exactly sure how to approach the followup to the story of my name.  When I finally had the short-lived courage to begin this short series of posts, I didn’t plan it fully and wasn’t sure where it was headed. As soon as I got over the initial excitement of asking my mother to write, clicking “publish,” and watching the number of hits rise steadily over a few days, I realized I had gotten myself into a little bit of a mess.

A mess named me.  Such an intensely personal topic, this joy-searching.  I’m timid to approach it.

Why joy?

I’m fully aware that a life obsessed with finding joy may very well be a lived both selfishly and fruitlessly; focused on my own experience, I tend to turn inward and cripple myself in rumination, stealing myself away also from serving others whether in deed or as a matter of preoccupation. As Terry Lindvall writes, reflecting on C.S. Lewis’s writings on joy, “A greedy impatience to snare, grasp, and keep joy . . . is the surest way to lose it,” and joy “can be instantly frightened away by introspection.”

But Lewis (a fellow joy-searcher and joy-stumbler) also called joy “the serious business of heaven,” the “grand truth,” and “the surprise that happens when we discover God’s love.”

Perhaps my favorite so far are Earl Palmer’s words: “Joy is a meaningful acceleration in the rhythm of our relationship and our understanding of God.”  I love that description. I love the way it moves.  I love the thought of joy as synonymous with a quickened relationship with creator God.

I’ve kept it no secret here that I’ve struggled mightily with anxiety and depression. On my worst days, I am cynical, critical, unmotivated, and at times paralyzed by dread, fear, and self-loathing. As it would happen, at the time I have chosen to let you all in on my quest for joy those feelings are very present.

So why joy? Because it doesn’t come naturally for me. Not only does any sinner approach God from a broken standpoint, but on top of it I am a natural pessimist and cynic (though I hope those qualities can be changed).

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks extensively about her struggle to live the meaning of her name, “full of grace,” despite hardship and disillusionment. What is one whom God named joy to do when joy is elusive? Joy, which is supposed to be Christian lifeblood, a natural outpouring of gratitude for God’s good gift of Christ and all things added to him? (Pour on the guilt!) I suppose I have all year (and maybe a lifetime) to figure it out… But to begin, I’ve identified a few places where I have found joy in the past, and where I can focus my energy and time this season:

My joy list for 2012

• Giving of myself to church service and fellowship.
• Praying always
• Memorizing scripture
• Writing often
• Spending time in creation.
• Resting intentionally.
• Using time purposefully.
Practicing gratitude.
• Having grace for myself and my mistakes.
• Forgiving quickly.
• Serving Jesus by serving other people.

I hope to add to this list significantly this year. Where do you find true, lasting joy?


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3 Responses to “Finding my name: The battle for joy.”

  1. Brynna, I love the way you bare your soul in these words.
    Like you, I have this bent towards melancholy, depression, anger. My middle name is Grace, and I’m also learning what it means to live up to this thing that God has called me to BY NAME.
    After everything I’ve been through in the last year with my mom, I’ve realized that joy is so much more than mere happiness. There were times when happiness eluded me, but I still felt I distinct joy as I witnessed God’s grace in really hard moments. Learning to tune our perspectives to God’s grace and joy does require intention and a change in behavior. To my surprise, though, it is as simple as letting the spontaneity of life alter my heart, letting the small unplanned moments of life surprise me.
    The last few days in hospice before my mom passed exposed me to some really scary moments. But also, I felt a palpable spirituality through it. My mom, who could barely talk and hold a conversation, sang her favorite hymn. She prayed aloud, and we understood every word. We prayed together and said, “I love you.” It was not planned. I was angry with God in so many ways. I hated life. But His Spirit intervened. And I was not happy, but I felt the joy of His salvation.
    I feel a little like I’m rambling, but mainly, my point is that joy is a gift of the Spirit. It’s not selfish to seek it, because about it’s about seeing His grace. So make room for joy and grace with intention, but I would encourage you to indulge in life and all it’s spontaneity, because that is His Spirit at work.
    Much love, friend.

    • Oh, what’s in a name? I love the idea of being surprised by joy (a la CS Lewis..). Those mercies of memory of your mother must be such precious gifts now. He is so good. In my worst battle with anxiety (a little over a year ago) I experienced a similar inner peace despite the turmoil my body and mind were facing—I wouldn’t call it “joy,” exactly, but I like the way you put it: joy of His salvation. I knew my situation was temporary and that he was greater, and I felt him there moment by moment. Thanks for your insights and advice. I’m happy you’ll be along for the ride as I write this one out… :)

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