I had the following conversation today:
“How are you?”
“Terrible. Why would you ask that question? Why would you ask that when you already know the answer? I’m here aren’t I? Why would you waste my time with that question?”
We finished our verbal interaction and this person went back to their seat. Three words. I asked a simple question and a door opened that told me more about the individual on the other end of the conversation than I needed to know.
There was no joy to be found.
Yesterday, the message at church was on joy and letting our outside match what is inside. We are told, in the Bible, of incarnational joy. The message of the holidays is a coming of peace that passes all understanding. We sing Joy to the World.
In the absence of heaven, we find means to medicate a filler of the space inside.
Some do this through faith, prayer, love and community. Others buy things. Even more grow dark and numb as their flame wisps to smoke and eventually a cold interior.
Then they are asked a question, How are you?
And they answer like above.
This time of year we tend to spread ourselves thin, pulled in all directions. Kids act up. Work stresses. Finances may be tight with that last push to finish shopping and find the perfect gift.
Yet, we know the perfect gift.
For happiness is a choice. Sorrow is a choice. Cynicism is a choice. Fear is a choice.
Love is a choice.
Joy though, joy is different. Joy puts me on the beach in Mexico during our honeymoon all those years ago, sleeping next to Val as the tropical breeze drifts over us. Joy is the first moment I held Carter and Aiden, the thrill and mystery of being a parent. Joy is knowing what I’m called to do, not that I’m there yet but I know the pull God has placed on my heart. I know my completed sentence.
I don’t know how it will play out.
Your own story may be a mystery tonight. You are sitting in a dark room reading this on your cell phone searching for a glimmer of hope. You are yearning for words that may change your circumstance for the better. You want a kindred soul.
You are not alone.
Joy is born of the perfect gift, the completed sentence, knowing the ending before you arrive. It is the reason we celebrate the arrival of the One come to change the world and take on our suffering in our place. Joy lit the sky over the shepherds, drew the wise to their knees, ignited a star in the sky and fulfilled words found centuries before.
So the next time someone asks, be ready.
How are you?