Henri Nouwen: Complete

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I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

“Joy is essential to the spiritual life. Whatever we may think or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that His joy may become ours and that our joy may be complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing—sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death—can take that love away.

Joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God’s love for us…Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based upon the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

Henri Nouwen in You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living by Henri J. M. Nouwen and Gabrielle Earnshaw (New York: Convergent, 2017) reading for 1 June.

In my exploration of the relationship between man and dog this week, I surfaced the idea multiple times that a dog helps complete a man. A man learn things from his dog that no other teacher can get him to grasp, like unconditional love and gentleness.

Since our dog’s name was Joy St. Clare, my mind went to today’s Scripture and related thoughts by Nouwen. For many of my meetings this week, I have checked in “choosing joy” because I have been feeling sad and incomplete. I am realizing in real time that joy really is a choice.

For the Christian in crazy times, choosing joy is one of the greatest gifts we can offer those around us because we show that the hope that we have transcends our circumstances. And we all experience challenging stuff. In choosing joy, we show that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

No loss, no virus, no bad news, nothing phases us. Of course, we get to be human and shed tears in hard times, but we are not overcome by what happens to us. We can rise above it. Joy St. Clare was never phased by anything. She always exhibited joy. That’s what she would want me to do to.

Care to join me? Jesus, plant your joy in us so that we are complete. Amen.