I’ve written about joy in the past and will likely continue to reflect and write about it. Joy feels foreign to me at times, and then it feels deep inside my soul at other times. Sometimes I feel the effects of joy, but I don’t express it verbally or in my facial gestures. I can feel deeply for things and people without showing any visible sign of it. I’m not sure how I developed or why, but that’s something I know about myself. This past weekend, I felt joy’s familiar expression, and I couldn’t help but smile. (Maybe I did in person; who knows? I’ll have to ask Kristina.)
The moment was Saturday afternoon. The weather was cold but not raining, meaning we didn’t want to go outside. So, we opted for staying inside doing what we mostly do: movies, TV shows, video games, and now playing with our puppy, “Poppy.” The moment was small, perhaps virtually insignificant to anyone else, and probably even more unnoticed. Maybe Kristina shared that moment, too. I’m not sure. She was there, and that’s equally a part of this actual moment of joy I experienced. The kids were on the floor, laughing and rolling around, and Poppy was busy playing with them. At that moment, I said to myself, “I’ve arrived.”
Where have I arrived? Or, to what have I come? Joy. That’s where and to what I’ve arrived. But for some reason, I quickly asked myself, “Am I allowed to enjoy this moment?” Weird question, right? For some reason, it was almost as though I had not earned the right to enjoy the blessings in front of me: my family.
Ministry is hard on anyone, let alone a clergy couple like myselfand Kristina, and then add children to the mix. I had always known that ministry would be challenging, but I never imagined that the stress of leading a Church could impact your family the way it affected mine. Our family struggled when Kristina and I were both serving as full-time ministers, and on many days I felt so deflated and defeated that I had no energy to give to my children. It was often devastating to witness. They grow up so fast, and sometimes we miss the moment because we answer God’s call.
I blame no one for that season, not even God. Kristina and I are the gatekeepers to our family. To some degree, we allow what affects them and what doesn’t, though we can’t control everything. Outside stressors can strongly influence that too, but this season we’re in now has given us a chance as a family to develop new rhythms for future seasons. So, I blame no one because life is hard.
Life is hard. There I said it. (Er, I wrote it.) There are good days, and there are tough days. There are days we grieve. There are days we enjoy. Life is hard despite one’s career or circumstances. Even in our harshest of seasons in ministry, there were days I can faintly remember as being joyful. On those days, I felt like I earned the right to enjoy them, too, because the days prior were tough. But in this most recent moment, I tried to stop myself from enjoying it because it felt like I hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
The truth is, I haven’t, but that is God’s grace. Was I allowed to enjoy that moment? Yes, even if I stopped myself from doing so. Many people, such as family, friends, and churches, support us financially and/or prayerfully. That moment of joy, healing, and love made flesh and peace real for our family.
So, to our family and friends who support us in various ways, know that your support has provided healing circumstances for our family. Your support continues to bless us so we can bless others in this country. Your belief in us strengthens us as we seek to follow Jesus. We can enjoy this moment because of you, and I hope that gives you a profound sense of joy today.