Can you name the things that bring joy to your life?
My initial list was short, and it was mostly a list of family members (including the two grandsons) (and the one on the way) and friends. I thought longer, and added what wasn’t immediately obvious – good books, art, and music. Poetry.
And in spite of various physical travails (like throwing my back out), I can say our recent trips to London and southern England brought joy. Standing in Canterbury Cathedral and reciting the Lord’s Prayer at 3 p.m. with a tour group from Japan ranks near of the top of my joyful travel experiences.
At times I’ve experienced joy at work, but it’s been a long time since that happened. A sense of accomplishment, living out one’s faith at work – yes; joy, no.
I don’t wonder at what happened to the joy of faith. I know what happened. I’m not sure when hip, cool, and relevant became the operative words in evangelical churches, but they did. A superficial explanation is the shorthand phrase “worship wars.” But something far more fundamental and profound was happening. In effect, the church as I knew it embraced the culture in a lovelock, and it became something other than the church. We are just beginning to see the consequences in both the church and the culture. And it isn’t only millennials who are disenchanted with the church.
This question of joy is, for me, assuming some sense of urgency for me. Retirement from the day job is coming in May, and while I am not feeling any apprehension or regrets, I am trying to do something that’s different. I don’t play golf, and I have no intention of sitting around in my rocking chair. Instead, I want to find the things that bring joy, to others and myself, and do them. I want to encourage others. I want to renew a sense of purpose and a sense of joy in life.
In Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, Margaret Feinberg describes an experiment she undertook – saying yes to every request for two weeks. She wanted to see if making others happy, doing whatever they asked of her, would bring joy to herself.
The experiment worked; she answered her question. The answer was a rather emphatic “heck no.” “Saying yes to everything was causing me to spend time and energy on the inconsequential,” she writes, “ignoring the people who mattered most. Rather than increase my joy, the Yes Experiment made me hypervigilant to avoid anyone who might ask for anything.”
For the next few weeks, led by Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines and Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact, we’re going on a journey with Feinberg’s Fight Back with Joy. I think it’s going to be a good preparation for retirement. Consider coming along, or at least reading along. You can see what others are saying today, with the introductory chapter, by visiting Sarah’s site.
Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.