I thought I knew what I wanted to write about, but just now when I sat down to make this post, I changed my mind. At least, the thoughts escaped me. But, I saw that I had a draft of another post saved on my computer and I opened it up to a post on “joy.” What I had already written really resonated with my feelings now; it’s funny how that happens. I’ll write something and then set the thoughts aside for a while, unsure of how to continue. Then, a couple months later they’ll come back to me, relevant as ever. Anyway, earlier in the day that I wrote this, I had been to worship at a beautiful little church, Rockville Presbyterian, and had some reflections on the message. Here’s what I wrote on July 26th:
“Joy– true joy– is not found in our day-to-day circumstances. It’s not about whether we are having an awesome day or one of Alexander’s terrible-horrible-no good-very bad days. Being joyful is not the same as feeling happy. True joy comes from knowing that God’s promises are everlasting. The speaker referred to some passages in James that the pastor at Wesley UMC on Johns Island preached on 2 weeks ago, which talked about how God gives us trials and tribulations for different reasons–and it’s not just to spite us. God challenges us to put our faith and trust in GOD when times are rough. We’re supposed to find the JOY in all our circumstances. That’s hard.”
Maybe I stopped at “That’s hard” because it’s true. It is hard to be joyful when we feel like all other signs point to feeling lonely or angry or depressed. We are called to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:2-5).
I am trying hard to remember to see, feel and appreciate the joy that overflows in my life. I have so much to be thankful for. I want my last year in college to be joyful and fun. For the past two years I have not made a conscious effort to seek joy at school. It has been hard for me to connect with the people around me and form meaningful relationships. I’ve done some of the things they always say to do, like join groups, be friendly, talk to people in class, volunteer. I have tried things, but with no luck in meeting anyone that really gave me the feeling like, “Wow, I really want to hang out with her/him.” I think I’ve been looking for lifelong friends or people who are like my friends in other places, or with whom I have lots in common. Maybe I have been focused too much on finding the “perfect-for-me” friends, rather than seeking out good, genuine people I can simply spend time with.
My school is not huge, but there are a few thousand people here– which means lots of potential friends. The student body is very homogeneous in personality especially, and since I arrived I felt like I didn’t fit in. This is a feeling that I hadn’t experienced much of growing up, and even if I’m not completely there yet, I know that I will be thankful for it more every day now and in the future as I meet new people.
With that being said, it’s hard to feel joyous when you feel alone and when, despite your attempts, you can’t seem to relate to the people around you. It’s also difficult to continue the search for meaningful relationships after a while. BUT, this is my last year in college! As I said before, I want it to be joyous in all kinds of ways. I am focusing on spending time with people and having fun, even if it’s hard to connect on a deeper level (This is challenging for me, because I am usually a big investor when it comes to relationships.). I am trying to embrace the fact that I don’t have much in common, at least on the outside, with most of the people around me. Instead of looking around the room and thinking, “Where the heck do I fit in among these people??” or “How did I even end up here?” I am changing my mindset.
I want to appreciate the unique characteristics that others have, and try not to let our differences get in the way of having a good time. I want to find the JOY in my daily circumstances, in my peers, and even in the times when I feel lonely. Francesca Battistelli puts it well in her song “Beautiful, Beautiful” when she sings, “Now there’s a joy inside I can’t contain/ But even perfect days can end in rain/ And though it’s pouring down/ I see You through the clouds/ Shining on my face.”
God says, “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it . . . Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:1-2, 5-6). I think it’s time for me to try harder at entertaining strangers and seeking out my joy, even when it feels hard or lonely. Jesus did that, so I’m supposed to do it, too.