No one takes away your joy. – John 16:22 (CEB)
Yesterday, we moved Youngest into his dorm. He begins his first year in college just as oddly as he finished his senior year in high school. Move-in is spread out over a week, so there was none of the normal craziness of move in. Actually, the halls were pretty empty. His room, too, since his roommate won’t move in until Thursday.
Once everything was in and we figured out how to trundle the beds, he headed off for his first test of college life. The first thing he’ll learn in this new adventure is how to do a self-administered COVID test. Luckily (I guess) he had the full testing experience a few weeks ago, so he knew what it should feel like (very uncomfortable).
We had lunch, made a run to Best Buy for a TV, and then he was ready to say good-bye to us. We left him with a room yet to be arranged and unpacked. Parents of boys don’t have the same experience most parents of girls do. There wasn’t any decorating to be done – other than the TV.
When Eldest went to school, I was joyful because Eldest was joyful. I feel that joy for Youngest, but it’s tempered. While Youngest was excited, and we for him, there is this sense that any day the university could decide to close the campus and send him home. Instead of the normal welcome-to-campus events for first-year students, there are reminders everywhere to wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and avoid large gatherings.
The first day of classes will come next Wednesday, but he won’t need to leave his room. We never did get a campus tour in. Who knows when he will actually see the full campus. Youngest is used to going to the gym every day. Now, he will need to remember to make a reservation in order to do so.
When our kids leave home, we wonder and worry about what trouble they might get themselves into. Of course I’m concerned about his health, but I also worry that he might not have an opportunity to even get into any trouble.
A few years ago after reading Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown, I wrote about foreboding joy.
In a moment that we should savor and enjoy, we prevent giving ourselves completely over to it because of what might (but probably won’t ever) happen. It’s not allowing ourselves to enjoy the beauty of fall because winter is coming. It’s not laughing out loud because we might look or sound funny. The longer we wear this armor, the more we withdraw from the joys of life in order to protect ourselves from what may take that joy away.
The pandemic is a constant threat to joy. It’s not that we don’t have times of joy, but it’s difficult to avoid thinking about what and who are missing. It can be easy to dwell on how we’ve always done it before or how we want to be doing it now. These are true and honest feelings, but we can’t let them steal our joy.
Youngest finally had a graduation ceremony in July – but his family wasn’t there, and we didn’t have a party to celebrate. We could have focused on these things. However, we chose to celebrate his accomplishments: a state football championship, graduating with high honors, and starting college with 45 AP credits (more than his brother, he’d probably like you to know). He has also started three companies and endured even more hours of virtual learning than most as he shifted from in-person tutoring to on-line math tutoring in April.
I’m trying hard not to be cynical about what he’ll be missing in his first year of college (or what Eldest is missing in his last). I’m hoping to focus on what each day will bring him, who he will meet, and how his classes will engage him.
I am going to choose joy, again, because it’s the better way to live. It is the choice that honors who we are as a family and who Youngest is becoming. Joy witnesses to the hope we have in Christ — and trust that the gifts of God are not tarnished by a virus.I am going to choose #joy, again, because it’s the better way to live. #hope Click To Tweet
Jesus who makes our joy complete, we are disappointed of all we feel has been stolen from us. This ever-present virus seems to reach into every part of our lives, twisting them into what we do not choose. But you told us that no one can take away our joy. And just as there is nothing in this world or the next that can separate us from your love, your joy is always with us. Teach us to choose joy, again and again, even in the midst of circumstances that threaten it.
Just as you protect our joy, protect those we love. Remind them of your presence in their lives when they face adversity. Flame the fire of hope within them when they feel defeated. Help them to grasp joy rather than worry, being fully present in each moment of their lives. Amen.#Joy witnesses to the #hope we have in Christ — and trust that the gifts of God are not tarnished by a virus. Click To Tweet
I’m excited to announce my new book will be out next week!
Come to the Table: Communion Liturgies of Invitation to Celebrate and Experience the Love of God is a collection of communion liturgies inviting worshippers to experience and respond to the Gospel.