“For Madeleine [L’Engle] the great challenge of the life of faith
was letting go of anger and fear and instead embracing joy –
indeed practicing joy as a spiritual discipline.” – Sarah Arthur*
To practice joy as a spiritual discipline: what might that mean?
First, I think, it means attentiveness to the small wonders all around us – the affection of a pet, the laughter of a child, the glint of light off a hummingbird’s wings. It means “to rejoice,” as Arthur says of L’Engle, “in … all the amazing works of our Creator.”
Second, it means deliberately turning away from anger, fear, and worry. I’m not talking about denial, but about balance. As Brother Roger of Taizé wrote, “There is a time for everything, a time for calculating and thinking about the state of our funds, a time for joy, and another for toil.”**(19) Take time, each day, for something that brings joy.
Third, I believe, is an even deeper level of attentiveness. As Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” To recognize that place – or such places – requires mindful, prayerful attentiveness. What does give me joy? What calls me out of myself? Or deeper into my true being?
Macrina Wiederkehr wrote a marvelous prayer about such calling, an Epiphany prayer to the “Creator of the Stars.” In it, she prays for the light of the stars to “awaken … me to deeper seeing” and asks the “Infinite Star Giver … for wisdom and courage to follow these stars … [that] shine on me wherever I go:”
The Star of Hope
The Star of Mercy and Compassion
The Star of Justice and Peace
The Star of Tenderness and Love
The Star of Suffering
The Star of Joy
And every time I feel the shine
I am called
to follow it
to sing it
to live it ….
I pray that we all feel that call of joy. I pray that we follow it, sing it, and live it.
*A Light so Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle (Zondervan, 2018), pp. 199-200.
**Journals of Brother Roger of Taizé, Vol. I (Cascade Books, 2021).