Grey Joy

[written in Nottingham, England, while in graduate school]

If nothing else, this year has been one of reconciling challenges and blessings, and trying to love life as hard as I possibly can. I have often found myself homesick–or at least wishing one of several beautiful faces from home was here with me–mere moments before or after I have reveled to myself about how fortunate I am to be in England. Sometimes I feel like I’m justcreating inner turmoil; why can’t I simply decide how I feel and feel it? Either I’m happy to be here or I’m not, right?

Well, of course this isn’t that simple. But I know that I’m not alone in living in this greyness, in recognizing that melancholy rides alongside mirthfulness. While reading for class recently, I came across this quotation by philosopher Robert Spaemann: “It is only in the context of a reality which at times stands in opposition to us that we can develop our powers. Any deeper sense of joy in life depends on the development both of our strengths and our capacities” to which I say, “Rock out, Robert.” I mean, the notion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is certainly widespread, but I like that Robby here incorporated joy into the equation. Conflicts don’t just end in a buffer personality or character; they can ultimately end in a more profound joy. On the phone about a month ago, my favorite professor Ben told me he was glad to hear that I was so happy, but he then quickly revised his thought: “No, you’re not happy, you’re joyful. That’s something deeper than being happy, and that’s what you are.” I beamed at his words, glad to know that the tug-of-war between home and away that has been wearing at my heart has also been boosting it. Joy has been trickling into the cracks that have formed from leaving one life and starting another. Funny how joy, at least in my life, is grey. I always envisioned it to be . . . yellow, or something bright like that. But at least grey is consistent, and beautiful in its own way.

So here I am in this grey, facing (minor) oppositions in the form of homesickness and frustrations about being in school, whilst being well-aware of the real problems of the world: poverty, disease, war, apathy. For some reason, I have been blessed to only know about these heartaches indirectly, through the people I have served or the stories I hear. Though the distance between myself and these forms of injustice means I am “safe,” it doesn’t leave me unaffected. I want to be a part of the injustice-turned-justice, I want to dab a paintbrush into the grey joy of my life and smear it over the lives of those who see only blackness, I want to help heal. Robert Spaemann articulated another sentiment that applies to my life, that “[a] person who is able to fall back on a memory of what it is like for there to be harmony in the world will be able to deal more easily with a world in which there is discord.” And again, rock out, Robert, because I could sift through my memories of “harmony in the world” for days and days, which I feel truly have prepared me to face a hurting world. I think about one of my best friends from high school, LJ (Lauren Jones) and the countless moments of laughter and sweet support we have shared together. At some of my most vulnerable points over the years, LJ has deemed me “brave bunny,” and this affectionate faith has always helped to transform enough of my despair into hope so that I could keep going. I think about Yvette, my supervisor from AIRS last year who has ultimately become an amalgamated big sister/second mother to me because of how much she cares about me. In looking up to Yvette, I have learned about acceptance and trust in God during the times when it is hardest–but also the most necessary–to do those things. I think about the rest of my family and friends who have contributed to the harmony in my life and have consequently made me more ready to handle discord. So again, even though life is juxtaposed between what is wonderful and what is wounded, I take refuge in my deeply-rooted joy and carry on.

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