Recently a spiritual advisor I rely on challenged me to find my joy.
She reminded me of a great quote by a great writer named Frederick Buechner, one that I’m not sure if it’s true, but I want it to be. True for me at least. It goes like this:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
But she replaced the word gladness with joy. What is my joy, she asked.
It serves to reason that I can’t know if my joy meets the world’s great hunger until I figure out the joy part.
She decided to check in with me, putting a reminder in her phone the moment she challenged me.
A month went by. A hard month in many ways. A frustrating one. I spent the month living like a finger that can’t stop scratching an itch. I was a living, breathing, annoying paper cut.
Then the reminder came. “Are you finding your joy?” she asked.
I stopped in my tracks.
Shit, I thought. It was the start of an eye-opener for me that I had lost my way.
It helps sometimes to give it a second thought. I felt critical. Too critical. I took the time to re-think my previous month. I didn’t come close to finding my joy, but I had pursued it.
Finding your joy isn’t all joyful, I realized. In fact, this pursuit contributed to some of the angst I felt that month. It brought to the surface of consciousness my own sense of discord with God, and sense of restlessness within myself, all of which is necessary if I am to find my joy. Because I know this: the seed of joy can only grow in the fertile soil of truth. Truth with myself, truth with others, truth with God.
I thought back to an interview I had with Dutch Bros. CEO Travis Boersma who oozed joy. I recalled how he recited word for word his personal mission statement. His focus and his relentless pursuit of it made him a success, but more importantly it brought into congruence his life’s ambition and life’s passion. He lives his joy.
I wasn’t living mine because I wasn’t sure what it is.
That simple act of accountability spurred my frustration into action. I met with a spiritual director later that day. The topic filled our hour. He sensed the inner state of unease.
“You touched your chest as you describe this,” he said. “I sense the tightness right there in the center of you.”
Yes, I thought. That describes it.
The next morning I decided to get back to basics. Joy, I realized doesn’t come in the future, it comes in the now. It comes from gratitude, from seeing life’s blessings where they are, instead of hoping for some other version out there in the future. It starts with truth.
No great revelation, but day-by-day since, my first priority has been to find my joy. Day-by-day since I am getting closer.
My personal mission statement? It’s evolving, but I’m getting closer. I learned the first all-important piece. I want to write and work with other writers. Since then, I’ve redirected my efforts to do more of both of those things and less of the others things that keep from that.
I believe in the power of story over solution. I believe in the human connection as a means to improve the human condition. I believe writers do both. I want to do both.
My joy: a story well told.
My great joy: a story I have written well told.
The world’s great hunger: _____
That remains to be seen. I sense it has something to do with both the power of story and the human connection such stories bring. I think these stories help us choose a better, more honest, more joyous life.
My joy remains a work in progress, but the work is more joyful now than it was a month ago. It remains a worthy pursuit, one I have every intention of seeing through.