Inexplicable joy

Back when I was still working a regular desk job, one of my friends and I would skip lunch every now and then to go for a run together. Though we ran a similar pace, she always ran the downhills better than I did, while I could pass her on the uphills.

One of our coworkers was driving to lunch and saw us out running together, and she remarked, “There go Joy and Hope.” The other person in the car with her was incredulous, “You’re kidding, right?” To which our friend replied, “No. Those are my friends Hope and Joy.” I’ll pause for a moment for you to get all the punny little jokes out of your mind. … Joy and I are used to them. We even feel safe making fun of our own names with each other.

And that’s exactly what Joy did when our friend came back after lunch and told us the story. Joy said, “Yep. It was Joy on the downhills and Hope on the uphills.” Know what? I think she was more right in a deeper-meaning-kind-of-way than either of us realized at the time.

Whether it’s in running or any other aspect of life, the easy downhill parts can bring you great joy. And when you get to the tougher parts, the ones that require a different kind of strength to tackle, well, that’s where hope comes in.

There are plenty of times in our life when we expect joy: marriages, births, special celebrations, getting hired for our dream job, going on that long-anticipated vacation, snow days (well, here in the south, anyway). And, yes, even running down hills.

But I’ve found it’s the inexplicable moments of joy that are the loveliest.

Joy unlooked for
Inexplicable joy is joy unlooked for, unexpected, and perhaps even better because of its ability to surprise. Like a little bouquet of flowers one of my neighbors brought to a party my husband and I hosted this past weekend.

A small bouquet that brought surprising joy

I don’t know why, but this simple gesture of flowers from my friend’s garden, this bouquet with all of my favorite colors, brought me genuine joy.

Perhaps I was more susceptible to inexplicable joy this past weekend because it marked a milestone event in my life, one I wasn’t sure how well I would handle. It turned out to be an emotional day for me, but not in the reduced-to-tears way I feared.

From the very first moment when I awoke to a breathtaking sunrise to the last quiet hours of the evening, I felt waves of joy unlooked for.

I was keenly aware of the blessing of simply being alive. I was more aware than usual of the very great blessings in my life. Even more, I was amazed by the multitude of little blessings in my life. And each one showered me with a feeling of joy that I won’t soon forget.

But I also don’t expect that kind of day filled with surprising joy will repeat itself any time soon. Genuine joy is a rare gift.

Overwhelmed by joy
One of my favorite bloggers wrote last week about unexpected joy he found in his yard recently. In his post, he included a passage from C.S. Lewis that I wanted to share with you here:

Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew,
the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed
by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and,
after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you.
(The Four Loves, 22)

Notice Lewis’ caution: If you seek to be always overwhelmed, you will be disappointed. You see, you can’t recreate or force moments of joy, moments that overwhelm you with their sheer beauty and delight. Moments that take your breath away precisely because you hadn’t expected to be so swept away by them.

No, you can’t force real moments of joy like this, but you can be open to finding them and allowing them to wash over you when they occur. You can make sure you pay attention to them when they come and acknowledge the gift of these moments in your life.

Have you experienced moments of inexplicable joy? If so, what made them especially surprising to you? What is the best way for you to remember them when you need hope for the uphills?

5 thoughts on “Inexplicable joy

  1. LOVED this post…and not just because of my name. It seems as though I’ve had more of those moments you describe lately than I used to, but I think it’s because I’m choosing to live more in the moment these days (less stressing over the past, less worrying about the future), so I’ve simply been paying attention more. And what a blessing it is to be more aware and more receptive to a “joy ambush” that we might otherwise ignore or miss entirely. Some unexpected moments of joy I’ve had just this week…cresting a hill (full of hope?) on a taxing run on a hot, steamy day only to be surprised by an exhilarating breeze that stayed constant through my joyous downhill…driving past a cow pasture on the way home at the end of a long day and seeing two baby cows running with happy abandon (ever seen baby cows running? adorable!)…Rachel surprising me with an email in which she shared a lovely poem she has been working on for weeks… I suppose I think the key to being surprised by joy is to be open to joy.

  2. I love this one – I get this…. I was ambushed by joy at the dinner table tonight and then when a child was able to trust me enough to tell me she had done something wrong that she needed to make right. Ambush.

  3. What a fun post. I remembering being ambushed by joy when my son was an infant, and I was knee-walking exhausted from night-time feedings. Being tired wasn’t pleasant, but joy rose up in me when life was reduced to sleeping, eating and caring for a baby. I’m remembering the fatigue less and the simplicity more.

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