We walk through a shorn grain field- all prickles and stumps, toward the thirty-acre stand of stalwart hardwood that situates itself behind our property. Sun streams unfiltered on our head and hands, warming us as we stroll. Our feet scuffle along through the brittle roughage that remains rooted to the earth while our eyes remain fixed on the tree line just over the horizon that awaits in the peaceful quiet of the wooded center, serving as a promise. A promise of what is yet to come. But first, we will push our way inward through brush and saplings, through tall grass and undergrowth that will slap and poke at our legs and hands leaving marks and tufts of some unknown weed on our pant legs. Young tree branches smack our arms when we forget to keep watch. We trip and stumble.
It is a struggle to push through. Yet we labor through this minor inconvenience for the joy that awaits. For the promise that is the sun trickling down like a waterfall through the branches of a reddened maple. Or for the delight that is a bed of leaves arranged just so on the forest floor. Daughter catches hold of a tree and swings around it dizzily as if it were a Maypole. I later find her gathering fallen leaves and fern growth in her little hands which she brings to me declaring her intent. We are to put them in a vase when we get home with a little water and voila! An instant bouquet will have been formed.
But all this, still yet a promise as we struggle through the entry point, as we manoeuvre our way along through the narrow passageway that leads to more. Sometimes we have to fight for the joy.
And didn’t the pastor say as much in his prayer? That he would have us fight for joy, contend for delight? He would urge us to not give up when the going gets tough, when the contentment starts to vanish. We must fight all the harder for joy when things are hard and life is challenging. Joy might seem elusive but it still lays waiting for its claimants to find it. To declare it as their own.
Joy is nothing special if it always comes to us easily.
For those things and people in life we have cried over, longed for, carried on about, cared for, thought deeply about, prayed greatly over, hoped for, believed in, desired for, sought after and belabored on behalf: those are the things and people that will illuminate our understanding of joy, piece by painful piece. Little by little. What will bring us joy is that which we have sacrificed for, one way or the other. What we will have invested in deeply. The returns might not always be as forthcoming as we might hope in the short-term, but the long-term investments are mostly more than worth the blood, sweat and tears.
So we press on.
Fighting so that we can find joy, have joy and live joy with the ones we love right now. Fighting so that we can live joy for the ones we’ve loved (past). In the life we live (present). In the life we plan to live tomorrow (future). But always fighting so that we can experience joy- right now and again tomorrow. We can’t change yesterday but we can fight for today, fight for tomorrow. And we fight knowing that what we’re struggling for is worth the effort.
Because joy is always worth the fight.
So I fight daily for joy- believing: hope against hope that the struggle is worth it. And I watch the joy begin to grow, inch by precious inch. One day at a time. One small gain made after the other. Knowing that I will always find joy if I keep my heart open for it. If I keep my heart tender.