Jesus said, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
You're too young to have noticed - I’m sure - the joy that you cause by your joy. Your smile is kindling for at least a hundred others every day - more than half of them are mine - and your delight in simple wonders causes me to wonder, too. I strain to see the joy you find so easily: through picture windows, seeking one more glad and happy glance of the neighbor’s errant dog; with mashed-up squash between your fingers, squeals and laughter on your lips, as dinner gives way to bath-time; in expectation of nightly blessings, hand on head, and glad for Momma’s hugs, as at the end of joyful days you find the rest of God.
Every night that we pray God to “tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous”, I wonder if those last three words aren’t yours - I mean, for you. A friend of mine had said as much: that he knew those words again when met against the backdrop of his son’s not-quite-eternal smile. I pray those words for you.
Even as I pray these words I wonder with some sadness why joy would - must - require this shielding - like the eroding edge of a receding shore. In so many ways, time grows us stronger, more mature, more developed - why not with joy? But joy is a gift that needs shielding - that is, left alone, joy despairs. And your smiles will one day learn mistrust and your laughter a self-conscious hesitation. O Lord, my God: shield the joyous.
I pray, dear Annie, as I pray these words for you, that you will learn the joy I've learned around the table, cup, and bread of God. The songs of saints in chorus singing: “Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread.” Receiving heavenly food. I pray with all my heart that you will find the pilgrim company of the Church with a forgiveness mightier than her thoughtlessness. That broken bones will find their healing, dancing, that mercy will make you merciful, and that when the “alleluia” breaks that dark, black Easter morning your own song, your heart, your life, will be a joy that needs no shielding.
And because I pray these things for you, I pray these things for me: that I may witness for you and with you the joy that comes to us as gift; the joy that keeps me grateful, hopeful, and expectant; the joy that sings the three-fold mystery of God:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
With the love and joy of Jesus,