“Laugh and grow strong.” St. Ignatius of Loyola
The other day I found myself gravitating to a certain checkout lady at a local grocery store. I strolled to her line with my shopping cart and it dawned on me why I liked her. I noticed the way her eyes twinkled and her mouth quickly broadened to a smile as she talked. There was a sense of joy within her.
I saw it in a friend as well. As we sat and talked one day, laughter followed his words. Knowing him, I knew that laugh was an overflow of the joy within him. Miroslav Volf suggests that joy is a feature of a life lived well; of a life that goes well.*
As I thought about it a little more I remembered asking a mentor for advice many years ago. His words have often come to me like a ray of light on a dark cloudy day. He said that he was guided by John 15. He said, remember whatever you do, wherever you go, there should be some joy in it.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus shares his last meal with his friends. When I imagine Jesus sharing a meal with people, I see him laughing and enjoying himself. Maybe his friends wanted to ask him for advice. Jesus gladly shared some with them. In fact, he summed up all he had been teaching them and shared why it is so important saying: “These things i have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
How do you know that you have lived well? There is some joy in it. When you follow Jesus and set out to live as he lived, joy comes.
How does it happen? How do you become a joyful person? The answer seems surprisingly simple. Jesus says, “Remain in me.” He is the vine and we are the branches. Life comes from him. When you are connected to him, you yield fruit - joy comes. It grows from a life nurtured, sustained, and guided by God himself. This kind of joy can grow in good times and in bad. It is a gift. We have been given seeds of joy from the beginning. You can see it in a child. It is also something that can grow. You can hear it in the laugh of an older gentleman or see it in the twinkle of an eye of the women serving you. Right now, someone may see it in you. Let joy ring out in your laughter. Let it grow in your heart. Go to the source of life and joy. Remain in Him. Joy will come.
* Miroslav Volf & Justin E. Crisp, Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life