Our One Desire is Joyful Connection
Writing Retreat: Day #2 (join us for feedback and clarification)
Below is part of an insta-draft of Lacking Nothing: Quieting an Anxious and Avoidant Faith. I’m posting from our writing retreat to get feedback & clarity. Please support the writing of this book by becoming a paid subscriber.
[This is from a section that will go before yesterday’s draft.]
In the summer of 2007, Geoff was invited to participate in a month-long seminar at Calvin College. And so our family moved into an apartment on the campus. While Geoff was engaged in the seminar every day, I found things to do with our boys, who were 3 and 4 at the time.
One of the things I found was a week-long half-day camp at Calvin’s nature preserve. Tennyson wasn’t old enough, so we would drop Soren off each morning and then go do our own thing. Each day for five days, we returned to pick Soren up at noon. Since there were about 20 preschoolers in the day camp, there was quite a crowd of waiting parents and siblings.
One by one, the four-year-olds would come out the door with their little backpacks on their backs and the craft of the day in their hands. And they would come out searching, scanning the crowd to find their people.
I remember seeing Soren looking one way, then another, looking for us. Every day for five days, Tennyson would spot him first. His face would light up. He would shout, “Soren!” and he would run to him and hug him. Depending on how fragile the craft was, Soren would respond with mutual excitement or annoyance as he tried to protect his work.
Either way, he would quickly show Tennyson what he had made.
I can only imagine what my face must have expressed each of those five days. I thoroughly enjoyed the gladness of brothers to be with each other after having been separated for the morning. When Soren looked up and saw my beaming face, he couldn’t help but smile back at me - right before he told me how hungry he was.
An Emotion Like No Other
What’s going on in this story is joy. Soren experienced joy because Tennyson was so excited to see him. I experienced joy vicariously, just watching them. And both boys experienced joy in seeing my delight in their reunion.
So what is joy?
Joy is a relational emotion. It’s different from happiness. You can be happy all by yourself, based on your circumstances. But joy needs another person or the memory of another person. Joy is a relational experience of sharing gladness to be with another person. When you are with someone who wants to be with you, it makes you glad.
When we say glad, we don’t mean happy. A few years ago, I (Cyd) was at the vet with one of our cats and it was clear that she was suffering and it was time to let her go. I had gone by myself, not realizing that this would be her end. The vet asked me, “Is there anyone you would like to call? We can wait if you would like someone to be here with you.”
I was so grateful for her thoughtfulness.
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