Joy in the Unexpected

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. He wrote a book titled, “Surprised By Joy.” In it he writes, “All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be'.” 

Joy can be found in some of the most unexpected and even painful places of our lives. As C.S. Lewis says, joy always reminds us. When I reflect on the many changes in my life over the past couple of years I am overwhelmed by the amount of joy that I have experienced. Although attached with much of that joy is the unwanted memory of our car accident. I continue to live with emotional pain, struggle with anxiety, and sometimes panic. I have difficulty sleeping at night and often get awakened by nightmares. While I wish this memory was not part of my story, it is, and I embrace it because with my pain there is joy. 

Joy is all around us, we may not always see it, but it is there. When we find it, it will bring to mind some past event that has birthed the current joy. The baby Jesus was not what the Israelites were expecting when God promised them a king and a savior. Yet from everything that happened with this small baby so much joy and love was found. 

Where have you been surprised by joy? Can you think of an unexpected place in your life where you discovered joy? Take a moment to meditate upon these questions, and reflect on how the Spirit continues to move around us revealing joy in the most unexpected ways.  

Love

Even when we hope for certain things, the outcome of what we hope for may not always match up with our expectation. The Christmas, I hoped for a cabbage patch doll, I did receive one, but she was not what I expected. She was a handmade cabbage patch with brown hair made of yarn and she was wearing a little blue dress. She was not the yellow haired plastic doll I wanted. I remember I cried that Christmas because what I had hoped for what not what I received. 

The Israelites were expecting Jesus to come as a king, someone with power and authority. Yet when Jesus came as a baby, he was not the king they expected. I imagine there was some disappointment, maybe some fear that God wasn’t really going to deliver his promise. 

As Jesus came into his ministry, and even as a child, people knew he was special, and they followed him. People came to believe that God’s promise was true, even though it was not what they expected, and it took many many years to see the promise fulfilled. 

What does it look like for us to live and love courageously when things don’t look like what we expect? Although I cried that Christmas morning when I received my doll, eventually I grew to love her. She didn’t look like all my friends dolls, but she became very special to me. 

Close your eyes, think of a time when your expectation didn’t match your hope. What did it feel like? How did you move forward? Even when things don’t match up we still have the strength within us to move forward, to live and love courageously. 

Creator God, may your presence near us be known. Help us to continue to move forward in life even when the outcome is not what we expect. Help us to move forward even when we feel like our hopes have been crushed. Help us to find the strength within to not let the outcome stop us from living to the fullest of life. Help us to live and love courageously. Amen. 


Hope

Hope is a feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen. I remember when I was a little girl, maybe 7 years old, I really wanted a cabbage patch doll for Christmas. I had built up this expectation in my head that she would look just like all the commercials on TV, blond (really yellow) hair with chubby plastic rosy cheeks. I have never been the best when it comes to being patient, but I remember waiting for Christmas to arrive that year, and feeling like it would never come. As difficult as it was, I waited, and my expectations and hope for this doll continued to grow. 

As we enter the Advent season, we know the Israelites had been expecting a great savior, a king, someone who would save them. In the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, he writes “fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to the Babylonial exile, and yet another fourteen from the Babylonian exile to Christ.” Many generations had passed between the time of God’s promise and Christ’s birth. Unlike my waiting as a child, the Israelites waited generations in anticipation of the One whom God promised, and it probably did feel like the promise would never come.

Sometimes what we hope for, may not be fulfilled in the time we want or expect, generations had passed until God’s promise in Jesus was fulfilled. When our hope does not match up with the time in which we expect something to happen, how do we hold on to that hope without losing sight of the joy that hope brings? How do we trust God’s promise to be fulfilled when God’s timing is different than our own?

What are you hoping for this season? Take a moment to meditate on this question, observe what it feels like in your body to hope, notice what emotions may come up. Be present with yourself and your emotions, and take time today to attend to your needs. 

Creator God, be with us today as we sit with our hopes and dreams of what has yet to come. Help us to be mindful of the things that truly matter, and to recognize that even while we wait and hope, there is much joy to be found in this present moment. Amen.