Actively Seeking Joy

On 11 December 2016 Lynsey Bailey, a member of St Mark’s, led worship. We are pleased to print an edited version of her address.

In preparation for a service on Gaudete Sunday, which is the day we light the candle for joy on the Advent wreath, I reflected on making a practice of seeking joy. Looking at a lot of what has been written from a religious standpoint, there is an element of ‘fear and awe’ attributed to it. I personally struggle with that and prefer a more simplistic view, a deep sense of happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment.

We all, to a lesser or greater degree, make a regular practice of seeking joy whether we realise it or not. It can be as simple as taking the time to be out in nature, spending time with our loved ones or indulging our creative hobbies, to name but a few. Joanna Crawford from the Live Oak UU Church in Cedar Oak, Texas acknowledges how easy it is to become ‘too busy for joy, too stressed for mindfulness’. She illustrated the point with a story about someone expending a lot of time and effort cutting down a tree with a blunt axe because he was too busy to take the time to sharpen it, which would ultimately save him time and make his job easier. It can be finding the joy in the small, simple things (like appreciating a hot cup of coffee or good meal, spending quality time with our families or even just returning a smile) which sharpens our own ‘axe’ to cope with daily life. With that we get a clearer view and context for our lives.

I wholeheartedly agree with that but, it is one of the paradoxes of human nature that the times we most need to find joy are when we feel the least inclined to do those very things that would bring us joy. As Rev Josh Pawelek of Unitarian Universalist Society, East in Manchester, CT says ‘Joy is essential not only as a foundation for engagement in the wider world, but it is also essential to our health and well-being, to our sense of confidence, to our sense of self-worth, and to our capacity for hope’. It's by no means as simple as willing ourselves to be happy, but there is something about being willing to put ourselves in the way of joy or create the opportunity and potential for joy.

What brings you joy? For me, I could name so many things - family celebrations; hearing the overture strike up for a performance of one of my favourite musicals; completing a set of minutes at work; singing – the list is probably inexhaustible since I can normally always find something to be joyful for, or about. If you find yourself in need of inspiration for ways to practice joy though, I can highly recommend MeiMei Fox's article ‘40 Ways To Practice Joy Every Day’ on One or two of the suggestions are a little out there (talking and dressing like a pirate for a day or giving yourself a crazy hairstyle) but I'm sure even just thinking about how you might do them could bring on a smile.

Copyright Lynsey Bailey