It being Easter, I was thinking about Christ and his Resurrection and what that means for me personally and I suppose us more generally. I was struck as we sang some Easter hymns in Church today (“He is Risen” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”) with how joyful they sounded. They were just happy, upbeat songs. It was delightful. Now, I doubt anyone that knows me would define me as “joyful” or even “happy” or “optimistic.” Not that I’m a sad, down-in-the-dumps, Eeyore of a person. I’m just somewhat cynical and skeptical and pretty stable (unflappable, if you will).
Yet today, I was struck with the joy and happiness of those songs and the meetings in general. I mean, word is that “men [and women] are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). I think I often forget this. Church and the Gospel often becomes something to slog through. Something that just has to get done. We talk about the suffering in the Garden. We try to understand the pain of the cross. I forget the joy of the Resurrection. Not just the joy that comes with belief in life after death, but the symbolic power of that moment.
Just as the Atonement (encompassing the Garden and the Crucifixion) represents all the pains, trials, sorrows, misfortunes, and general atrocities (major and minor) that we experience, the Resurrection is the joy that awaits. I don’t know how long we have to wait to feel that. Sometimes it may be a lifetime. But there is joy. There is goodness. There is a happy ending (maybe not a fairy tale, “happily ever after” ending, but a joyful one, nonetheless).
As Christ spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, He said:
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:11
Christ wanted them (and me and you) to have joy. The purpose of His last teachings was to give us the keys to living joyfully. It seems that Christ really wants us to have this joy. To live a life that is joyful and wonderful and delightful. Like, that may be the point of everything. Yes, it is to help us grow and be like him, but more importantly (or perhaps essential to that process) we are meant to have JOY.
I think joy differs from happiness in a couple ways. First, joy for me is a more lasting and stronger emotion than happiness. Joy sticks around and means more than regular happiness, like, happiness evolves into Joy. Second, joy is a more mature and complicated emotion. I think joy can (and must to some degree) encompass sorrow. Joy is happiness that comprehends that there is sorrow and pain and reason to weep and does so, but also sees the beauty and good and wonder.
Movies can fill me with joy. There’s just something about a great movie that leaves me feeling somewhat elated (I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox for probably the tenth time the other day and it always leaves me with that feeling). Sometimes all it takes is a really good trailer—there’s something about that anticipation that is built, the promises that are made, hints laid, secrets to be unraveled that is just joyful. I felt as a missionary that I should feel that same sense of joyful anticipation for GenConf (next week everybody). Never had before. Sort of did as a missionary because it was at least something to watch and to break up the lifestyle. After my mission in the midst of faith-remodeling, GenConf was the worst. I felt irritated, angry, nit-picky, and just all sorts of negative emotions.
However, I found a way. I actually enjoy GenConf again and probably reach that joy sometimes. As many of you probably know, I live-tweet the sessions (@HiltonConor if you want some snarky commentary during your #ldsconf experience). I feel engaged with the material. I feel creative. I feel like I can be me without tainting those around me. I feel joy (or perhaps it’s just worldly pleasure wrapping around my throat like a flaxen cord…).
I’m not quite sure how to have joy more frequently. Gratitude probably helps. Perhaps striving to see the humor in situations. I think there probably needs to be something a little more than that though.
Although, if all good things come from God, perhaps I don’t need a correlated, canonized basis to my joy. I just need to find that joy wherever I can and see God in it.
To find God in the joy of that perfectly cooked piece of pizza, with the crust crispy, the cheese slightly golden and the slice hot, but not so hot it burns your mouth, with perfect structural integrity of the piece that maintains through each bite.
The joy of plans cancelling that you didn’t want to go to, but felt a social obligation to attend.
The joy of getting lost deep in the pages of a book, finding another life.
The joy of popping open that bottle of Martinelli’s so the top flies across the room, yet none of it spills on your hands or the floor.
The joy of having the perfect comeback in the moment and not a couple days later in the shower.
The joy of moshing to the skanky brass of “Keasbey Nights,” or rapping along with all of Hamilton.
The joy of waking up to learn that your first class is cancelled.
The joy of crafting the perfect sentence, with each word precisely placed.
The joy of looking “fresh as hell, dawg,” and others recognizing it.
The joy of having an empty inbox.
The joy of crossing everything off your to-do list.
The joy of watching Buffy save the world. A lot.
The joy of belief.
The joy of hope that this is not the end.
The joy of embracing the light that cannot be darkened that is Christ.
The joy of meeting again with long-lost friends.
“Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth.” Alma 27:17
That sort of joy-so-powerful-all-you-can-do-is-pass-out may not be the most convenient to have frequently, but I’d like to feel it. At least once.
Let’s have some joy. That’s why we are, after all.