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December 12, 2016

Joy in Mission


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A Note from Luminex: Throughout the Advent season, our Monday blogs are centered on the Advent theme of the week (Faith, Hope, Joy, Love, Christ), and about how the theme in some way informs our mission to multiply. Today’s post is on Joy, and comes from Andy Bossardet, Coordinator for Equipping Thriving Congregations (for the Reformed Church in America).

“The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow.”
Mark Twain

Joy is a discipline for me. That might be a surprise to those who know me, but will not be a surprise to those who know me well. Those who know me see me as a prankster, an amateur comedian and a rocker of the argyle sweater. I plan game days and pop-up Christmas caroling. I love to grab a conversation and leave everyone laughing.

And.

Joy is a discipline. Humor comes from sorrow, not from joy.  The inner soundtrack I listen to is full of self-doubt, insecurity and wandering. So why on earth was I asked to write the “joy” blog post on Luminex?

Joy is not an experience of fleeting happiness. Joy is the experience of being connected. Really connected. Truly connected. Joy contains my sadness, my depression, my gladness, my laughter. Joy contains my dance parties with my two-year old son. Joy contains my solitary walks in the woods where I am trying to hold it all together.

Being numb is easier than aiming for joy. There are a lot of things I can use to numb myself in the place of connection. In my life, when the risk seems too great, I count and measure. How much money do I have? How many friends do I have? How many people liked the announcement that I am having a daughter in the Spring? Social media is great for that. You and I both know that I will be counting how many times this post gets shared. Numbers have the great power to numb. They reinforce whatever story (or stories) my mind is currently telling. And my story is this: “Your contribution to this world is your performance.” If I perform well, I will earn numbers, I will earn connection. And when that doesn’t work, sugar does. That will silence the questions, numb the ache in my gut and leave me disintegrated. Perhaps you have your own strategy – work, alcohol, TV, internet or personal power.

Let me be clear though. You are human. Thus you have a strategy.

For me, joy comes when I learn to tell more of the truth today than I did yesterday. Joy is when I am connected to myself, God and others. Connection comes when I can courageously look in the mirror and say to all of me, “You belong in Christ.” And then even believe it.

Not too long ago, I was introduced to the song “Birth” by Gungor (off their newest album “One Wild Life: Body”). The album tells the story of a human life from birth to death, and this is obviously the opening track.

Click here to listen to the song. The lyrics are as follows: 

“What is this light?

Why does it hurt?

Where is the warmth of the world?

What is that sound?

Why is it so loud?

Where is the beat of the world?

I know that voice

Singing that song

Please do not stop now, it feels so right

This world so harsh

It’s treble and bright

But home is the warmth of your voice”

The birth of a child is a joyous occasion (I write this as a father of a two-year old and an expectant father of a daughter to be born in March). But this song, taken from the perspective of the child being born, shows us that the joy includes sadness. The child is being brought into a new world of hope and light, but the light hurts and the hopeful world is colder than the 98.6 degree sanctuary she has been hanging out in for the past nine months.

People of Jesus, what if joy is what it means to be fully known, like Paul says when he wraps up his sermon on the power of love (1 Corinthians 13:12)?

And what does this all have to do with multiplying mission? Everything.

First of all, hiding from myself and God takes a lot of work. Numbing myself takes a lot of energy. It also takes a lot of time. The dis-integrated, disconnected life leaves little room for meaningful relationships where the ministry of reconciliation can be lived out.

Second, if I can’t see the pain in me, I can’t connect to the pain in you. We live in a day of outrageous connection. I know about the events of the world within minutes. In spite of this increased connection, it doesn’t seem as though compassion is also on the rise. In fact, the increased connection seems to be isolating folks from one another in many (not all) cases. As Brene Brown says, “You can’t selectively numb.” I can’t take away my pain without taking away my compassion and creativity. Neither can you. Neither can the Church.

If there was ever a time for a revolution in joy, now would be a pretty good one. If that is the case, what are some steps you can take toward a more integrated life?

  1. Move. Bodies matter. God chose to have one. Stretch. Exercise. Take a walk. Get in touch with this body you have – it’s holding a lot of your joy and your pain for you.
  2. Tell someone the truth. I don’t know what that means for you – whether it’s actually letting someone into the details of your life or bringing a secret to the light.
  3. Laugh. Humor may come from sorrow, but true, honest, belly-hurting laughter is also a rebellion against despair. Laughter says to despair, “You don’t get the last word.”
  4. Find silence. Fast from the things that numb you. Create space to be fully you – no masks, no hiding.

Let me leave you with this benediction: You are the light of the world. Let that light shine into your bright places and your dark places. And let that light shine on the bright and dark places of our world, so that all may know that we are not alone.

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