To experience deep, authentic joy is a gift. Even a single moment of this holy happiness is enough to send our spirits soaring.
Deep joy is the sort of gladness that fills up our whole bodies from head to toe. Many times, we experience this delight at unexpected times. It catches us off guard.
The sight of your daughter returning home from her first day of school. The feeling you get inside when you watch your grandson cast his fishing line into the lake for the first time.
These sorts of moments aren't planned or prescribed. They just happen. And when they do, we hold tight.
To experience deep joy in our own lives is special beyond words. To witness it in others is, perhaps, equally holy and wonderful. It is only recently that I have begun to recognize that joy is not a solitary state. It's contagious. When we see it in others, we become connected to the same sacred source.
I caught a glimpse of another person experiencing deep joy during worship on Sunday. It was not a rehearsed moment; it was entirely organic. The scene lasted only a second or two, but it replays in my mind again and again, beckoning the delight within my own spirit to break-forth.
It happened during an Easter Sunday worship service. I was seated toward the back of the sanctuary. Everything about the beautiful service breathed the power of the resurrection.
Toward the end of worship, the choir sang a piece of music that they had clearly been practicing for many weeks. As the final note rang out, I happened to look back into the raised choir loft. I glimpsed the face of the organist.
She smiled so big that I could see her teeth. And her eyes were bright. It was like the biblical blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 had been brought to life before my Easter eyes: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. She seemed entirely blissful. It was a blessing just to be in the same physical space as that kind of happiness.
Try as we might, we can't manufacture deep joy. But when we encounter it in ourselves or others, we can savor it and give thanks.
The roots of sacred gladness are found in God. Those roots are constantly stretching forth into sprouts of joy all around.
Signs of new life surround us this time of year. Look for patches of green in the weeks ahead. May they remind you to pay attention to the joy within your own heart. May they encourage you to give thanks for the joy you witness in others.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor serving at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod Office in Rochester. Visit her blog at: www.emilyannecarson.com.