Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Joy In The Face of Difficulty

It is not easy to live in this world.  There are difficulties that will cripple you if you let them.  People will let you down and make mistakes.  There is suffering and darkness in the world that threatens to snuff out even the brightest of hopes.

Recently, I have found myself beset with all kinds of news, joyful and not so joyful.  There are changes happening in my family and in my life that are beyond my control.  But in the midst of all these things, I have chosen (and believe me, it is a choice) to trust in God's will for my life and be joyful for all the blessings (and the sufferings) He is sending my way.

This morning I ran across a Zenit article about Pope Benedict's reflections on his Bavarian culture and homeland, and the appropriateness of celebration and joy in the face of suffering and darkness.

In the Holy Father's words of gratitude at the end of the event, he reflected on the Bavarian culture as one "of gladness."
"It is not simply a matter of entertainment, but of a culture of gladness, imbued with joy; it is born of an interior acceptance of the world, of an interior 'yes' to life that is a 'yes' to joy," he said. "It is founded upon the fact that we are in harmony with creation, in harmony with the Creator himself, and for this reason we know that it is good to be a person."

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 85th Birthday Bavarian Style
In German, the concept of Heimat (roughly translated: homeland) is a bit different than we experience it here in the United States. There is a romance that the Germans have with their country, and I mean by that, the actual land, that we simply don't experience as Americans.  We are proud of our country, don't get me wrong, but most of our pride rests in the protection of our ideology of freedom.  That is not a bad thing, necessarily, but it's nothing like a German person thinks of the Heimatland.

In singing and directing with our local German singing societies over the past 10 years, I have to have sung at least 20 songs in honor of the Heimat.  These songs evoke a strong sense of being tied to the land in a very personal way, at the very core of our being. The closest we come is the song "America the Beautiful" which celebrates the great natural beauties of our country before launching again into the ideology of patriotism.  It's just not the same.

Southeastern Ohio in its Autumn glory
Sometimes when I have the opportunity to travel, I try to place myself in the shoes of the first settlers of the places I see.  I imagine what they must have thought about a certain vista or a bend in the river where I catch a glimpse of what might have been there more than 200 years ago.  Among all of the concrete and asphalt ribbons we have laid across our state, I can see what my great-grandfather might have seen on his way from Pennsylvania to Ohio a hundred years ago.  If I go to the south and east, I see what my grandmother's people saw as they crossed the Cumberland Gap to the newly opened Northwestern Territory, before Ohio was even a state.  I believe that I have discovered Heimat in my very own neighborhood among the blooming cherry trees in the spring and the fire of the maples in the fall.

Why is this important and what does this have to do with finding joy in the darkness of the world?

Later in his remarks, Pope Benedict also commented:

 "someone could ask whether it is right to be so happy when the world is so full of suffering, when there exists so much darkness and evil? Is it right to be so high spirited and joyful?"
"The answer can only be 'yes!'" he affirmed. "Because saying 'no' to joy we do nothing of use to anyone, we only make the world darker. [...]

God is pouring blessings out on us every single day, if we are of a mind to see them for what they are.  This bounteous land I am proud to call home is a gift from God to all of us.  It is a reminder that even when things are drudgery, even when things look like they could never possibly turn out right, God is actively blessing us.  All He asks for is our "yes".

C.S. Lewis wrote that "God writes straight with crooked lines," and I believe that is so.  All of these curve balls being thrown at me this month are just a way for God to tie up the edges of this part of the tapestry.  The beauty and the blessings are still there, even if things look like a tangled mess.

What we expect to happen, rarely is a part of God's plan.  It's when we encounter the completely unexpected and see the blessings He meant for us that we truly experience God in all of His Glory. Our lives, in fact, every life, is a gift of pure love from God and should always be seen that way.  To see it as a curse or an affliction is like a spoiled child throwing a present back in a parent's face because they didn't like the color.

My choice, today, is Joy.

1 comment: