I am on an early morning stroll through Mount Pleasant, S.C. It’s already muggy at 8:18 and there is thunder in the distance. The sign at the driveway to yet another palatial house commands me to be joyful.
And I think, “It’s easy to be joyful when you’re privileged.” It’s a thought as gloomy as the clouds overhead. Across the street, I find a boat named after a celebration. Yep. Exhibit B.
But around the corner, another sign has a counter argument. On this site, a devout Quaker from Philadelphia named Abby Munro started what is thought to be the first orphanage for black children in the state. Funded by friends in the north, she housed, fed, clothed and educated destitute children who otherwise would have been in the street.
Later I find photos of her and from her school on the web. I even uncover her explanation of the founding of the school. She writes at one point:
“We feel assured that God has moved in this matter, and his pillar of cloud has moved before us. ‘In as much as you have done unto one of the least’ is the echo that comes to us as we look into the happy faces of these children who have already twined themselves around our hearts as the vine embraces the oak.”
There is my answer. Joy comes from doing the work that is close to God’s heart. Free the oppressed. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. “And bring the homeless poor into your house.” (Isaiah 58:6-7) It’s why, when the seventy-two disciples returned from their first attempt at doing the work Jesus taught them, not only were they filled with joy, but so was Jesus (Luke 10:17-20). God’s delight resonates in our hearts when we care “for the least of these.”
But that source of joy is deeper than just what we’re able to accomplish. Jesus instructed them, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20) The deeper reservoir of joy is the unmerited, unending love of God.
Grace is the great equalizer. Boundaries dissolve: geographic, racial, and economic. Grace, uprooting any sense of privilege, tenderizes and enlivens our hearts.
And as I hurry back before the rain starts, grace is already starting to unleash joy in mine.
Father, giver of love beyond imagining, we thank you for how you sought us out to bring us in. And we thank you for those who are reaching out across boundaries to do the work of your heart today. Enfold us into your work, as well, Lord. For we want our joy to multiply.