There's a moment from yesterday that I keep coming back to. I'm not sure exactly why.
We were going on a short break after Thanksgiving. Most of our vacation this year was taken up with moving out of our home in Minnesota. The first time I went back, we made sure to see a few people but by the beginning of July it was clear that we would not get things done unless we put blinders on and worked non-stop.
So yesterday, we decided to take a one-night overnight, a real although short get-away out of town. Friends from our congregation agreed to take care of our dog, Scout, for one night while we were gone.
And this moment -- it's not from the time away -- not exactly -- but we were on the way to the church to drop Scout off with our friends, who would meet us there.
When we got to the church, the door to the sanctuary was open, and they were both inside, getting some things ready for Sunday. Scout saw them right away. I let go of her leash and she ran down the middle aisle, where the husband greeted, and petted and patted and scratched her ears.
There was my twelve-year-old dog, who stumbles sometimes now on walks, running like a puppy.
I keep coming back to this moment.
And what I see is Joy.
My dog isn't perfect, as everyone who knows her will attest. She has taken to destroying books lately, something that breaks our hearts, a little (or a lot, depending on the book). The latest book of mine to be marred is one that my father gave me while I was living in Japan. Usually I just throw the book away but with this one, I have kept it (so far) even though I'm not sure it's salvageable.
Lately when we come home and open the door, we wonder what we will find. Sometimes everything is fine. Sometimes there is a book with its cover ripped off and teeth marks and the spine destroyed.
Truthfully I can't hate her. I know that what is happening has as much to do as our own early deficiencies in training as it does with her quirks in personality. It's complicated.
But here's what is not complicated: watching my old dog run down the center aisle of the sanctuary.
It doesn't fix anything, but it's necessary, you know? It's necessary. In the midst of hard work, and fear, and changing what you can change, and figuring out what you can't -- there's Joy.
There is a lot that is not joy in the world, but it's there if you look for it, it's there: a child opening a small gift and waving it in the air. There's the joy of hearing an old song after a long time, or the joy of seeing someone you love, who loves you, despite everything. There's a lightness in joy, a feeling that perhaps you could leap up, even fly.
I remember from last year now -- a Sunday when a little girl came into church while I was standing and giving the announcements. She ran up to me and hugged my legs. And I don't know what she was feeling, but I felt Joy.
There is serious work to be done in the world.
And then there's joy.