You know what? I am amazed at how many people in spirituality circles want to cram joy down your throat. Not only that, they claim to experience it. Joy is one of the words that my teacher rarely used. Another one was love. He said that he didn’t use words like peace, love and joy because we would have no idea of what he was talking about. Bingo!
Hypocrisy would have us talk about personal possession of these experiences. But in reality, humanity suffers from a lack of peace, love and joy. If you doubt me, read the headlines. We are a declining civilization, not a growing one. We are doing everything wrong. To know that is a necessary spiritual experience. Because now you are being honest. You have to start where you are. If all you have is a broken heart, that is your reality. God can help an honest human being.
Hypocrites, not so much.
I look back over my life so far. Although I took to the path in great earnestness, what I have become an expert on is my own life, a life of caregiving and losses. Lord knows I tried to apply what I knew, but they didn’t help at all. You see, even when we are earnest about the path, we remain human beings. We don’t turn into angels at all. In fact, we get worse before we get better. We screw ourselves up and other people experience the fallout. And vice versa.
But my teacher also said that you always get your spiritual gold. In other words, even when you are messing up and falling down, you are making progress. Because now you KNOW you have nothing to give God but your mistakes. He is the giver of goodness, not you. But until you take up your own cross of bad behavior, you have no hope of experiencing what grace feels like.
These days grace happens in small ways. New young neighbors that I deeply appreciate, a kind word at the doctor’s office, an old neighbor calling to say I had a package on my front porch. Until we appreciate the small graces, we can never know the big ones. Maybe the big ones will never happen. In that case, the small ones will come to mean more and more. Never give up on God. Focus on doing the smallest things consciously. Forget big words like joy. If suffering is your lot, be gracious about it. The alchemy of awareness helps us bear our crosses knowingly. And that can be a big, big grace.