Miriam Webster defines “joy” as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”
In John 15:11, Jesus speaks of complete joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Every reading of that line has given me pause. What would it look like to have the joy of Jesus in me and for that joy to be complete?
For much of my life, I did not acknowledge joy. It wasn’t that I did not have success or good fortune—I had both—but I did not trust my success or good fortune enough to claim them and enjoy them. I was convinced that any sense of well-being was fleeting and would be gone before my smile could reach my eyes. I feared looking foolish when I ultimately experienced the disappointment of dashed dreams.
And then, about ten years ago, at a fundraiser for the Cabrini Sisters, I had a glimpse of pure joy. I don’t remember the details; what I do remember is that one of the Sisters was at the podium and something surprising happened. Her reaction was pure joy, the kind of unbridled joy I had only seen in children. She was happy at the good news she had just heard, and her happiness exploded from her. Her voice, her facial expression, her tears—everything about her screamed complete joy. I was happy for her and her good fortune. I was also amazed that she was so free to show her joy. I wondered if I had ever been that happy or that free to express my happiness.
That moment imprinted itself on my mind and heart. I set it as an intention—to seek that kind of joy, to feel joy so deeply that my whole being proclaims it. To be open to complete joy, a joy so overwhelming that I cannot contain it.
In the years since that evening, I have practiced recognizing things that make me happy, and feelings of well-being, and I have come to trust my good fortune more and more.
I find myself voicing what brings me joy, saying it out loud to imprint my joys, in much the same way I have memorized favorite passages of scripture. I want to remember all of my joyous occasions and pile them on top of one another until I have created a huge mountain of joyful memories. Perhaps then, I can scream with delight at my good fortune,