What Does Joy Spark?

As I Was Saying

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

Over the past few days, my family has packed up 30-plus boxes in preparation for our move back to Grand Rapids, Mich., later this summer. As we grab hold of old toys, games, and photos, we reminisce about stories that have shaped us over the past decade here in Hamilton, Ont. We spend time wondering together how our hopes and hesitations will play out over the next few months. We pause occasionally to share in each other’s sadness over friendships, routines, and familiar places with whom we will engage less frequently.

We’re downsizing, too. While shielding our love of books from too much scrutiny, we’ve found ourselves echoing Marie Kondo’s phrase about only keeping that which “sparks joy,” followed closely by: “And when is the last time we actually used this?” I’m learning in a new way that it’s OK for affections and pragmatics to mingle freely with each other.

In the midst of our intentional uprooting and transplanting, I have found myself pondering another question, too. While Marie Kondo invites us to consider how our possessions spark joy within us, this decluttering process has beckoned me to consider a follow-up question: “What does joy spark?”

Maybe joy is enough. Perhaps it doesn’t need to spark anything else. I’ve had some pretty curmudgeonly moments along the way. My family members might challenge my use of the word “moments,” preferring instead to use a time frame closer to months or years. Being joyful can take a lot of work because joy typically requires that I let go of my agenda, my rights, my fears, and even my dreams. But perhaps that’s the point: joy is never about grabbing hold of everything I can for myself. It’s not about my success, my comfort, or what I can possess and control.

Hebrews 12:1-3 beckons us to fix our eyes on Jesus, as the pioneer of our faith, who endured the cross because of the joy set before him. And that cross came about because Jesus willingly emptied himself, taking on our humanity as his own, becoming obedient even to the point of death. (Phil. 2:6-8) Joy was set before Jesus. Joy sparked the second person of the trinity to empty himself. Joy beckons me to empty myself, too.

Joy, then, comes about as evidence of how the Spirit is forming us to live more like Jesus did. (1 Jn. 2:6) At least in my experience, that forming usually involves the Spirit doing a lot of decluttering in my life. As the Spirit picks up the clutter in my life, I hear questions like these: Does my pace of life have room for people who don’t directly benefit me? When was the last time my prayers focused entirely on God’s presence and work in other people’s lives? Have I listened closely enough to others to know their joys and sorrows well enough to pray specifically for them? How often do I welcome people into my home for food, games, or to just hang out? And how do my media habits affect my capacity and desire to love my neighbors?

Perhaps then, what joy really sparks is a readiness and willingness, with the Spirit’s help, to declutter our schedules, our prayers, our homes, and our affections so that in all our relationships, “we might have the same mindset Christ Jesus had.” (Phil. 2:5)

About the Author

Chris Schoon serves as the Director of Faith Formation Ministries for the Christian Reformed Church and is the author of Cultivating an Evangelistic Character (Wipf & Stock, 2018). 

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