Return of Joy

“For a long season, O Lord,
I considered as an impossibility
what I now know as unshakeable truth:

That after loss, pain, tragedy, tears,
sorrow, doubt, defeat, and disarray,
I will hold a more costly and precious joy
than any I have held before;
and this not in denial of my loss,
but manifest in the very wreckage of it.”

from “A Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the Return of Joy” (Every Moment Holy, Vol. II)

Sunrise, Lake Montebello (Baltimore)

This liturgy fleshes out in words what I’ve been experiencing these last few months, as our family has transitioned out of our long season of being in crisis/survival mode. If any of you have been through a similar long grief and are beginning to be surprised by joy, I highly recommend reading the complete liturgy (a PDF of it is available for $1 here. I also highly recommend both volumes of Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey, published by Rabbit Room Press.)

Joy didn’t completely leave—there is one sense in which I recognized a tiny, strange ember of it even in the darkest days of my daughter’s health crisis. Mostly I was aware of it as a quiet and inexplicable strengthening, rather than a shattering, of my faith.

But a more noticeable and fuller joy is returning, and it is unexpected and delightful.

I find myself laughing more, even able to be goofy again now and then. 

I wake up from sleep feeling more rested.

I’m able again to be interested in and curious and philosophical about things outside our small circle of suffering.

I can make a meal plan, go grocery shopping, and not be wiped out mentally and physically for the next couple of days.

My body and mind are not constantly on edge for the next crisis.

Most importantly—and I say this with a little trembling—I’m beginning to sense in my soul a strange gratitude for what we’ve come through. I think it’s because each of us knows God more deeply, knows His good love more personally. 

I don’t understand all the ways in which this is so, but I sense that we are each better because of this long trial. I think both the extended suffering and the beginning of this season of recuperation and renewal are working something good in me, and in my family. 

I’ll take it.

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