I remember a boss once remarking that it was hard to do a performance appraisal for me, because I was much harder on myself than he could ever be on me. He was, and is, still right. I'm harder on me than I would be on other people, always quick to point out my failings, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, things done and left undone.
The sermon on Sunday was about joy. Now, I don't know about you, but I sure haven't looked at these last 17 months with shear joy. Shear joy was what I was expecting when our baby was due in March of 08, not what I got when he died in December of 07.
Now, I must stop. There have been moments of joy. I have been thankful. Truly thankful. For the moments of pain, there was joy. Gabriel died, yes, but oh, he lived for a glorious 3o minutes, he was baptized, our family spoke to him on the phone. I have photo's.
I may not have a living child, but I have all of you to remember with me. I am not alone. And at the end of this, I have the glorious promise of heaven. I have not said good-bye to Gabriel, but only so long for now. I will see him in heaven, and we will both be perfect.
But, back to the sermon. We were being exhorted to feel joy. Joy is, I must confess, rather different than happiness. Happiness depends on what is happening, how we feel. Joy is rather deeper, depending on what we believe. But, I will confess, I don't think anyone would look at me, look at how I have handled Gabriel's death and point me out as the poster child for obedient, amazing, strong Christian woman. Mostly I have stuttered and stumbled my way through. I'm no saint.
I'm better. It's easier. I still hurt, and I think I always will. But, I am emerging. The very though of Mother's Day, while not thrilling me, doesn't leave me gasping for breath either. I can face the year ahead with my head up, and even smiling now. I know that I have survived, I will survive. Still sad, perhaps more quiet and introspective, but alive, and dare I say it, even thriving.
Our priest used a variety of verses to illustrate joy, joy in sorrow, joy in trials. And I was glad, it was an educational sermon, and a timely reminder to chose joy.
But, as I was sitting in the pew, feeling pretty much like a failure, thinking of all the times I didn't chose joy, all the times I could barely chose life. All the times my sorrow and fatigue and pain overwhelmed me.
And I hold on to the same psalm. The same one that God brought to my mind as I was beating myself up - Though the weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
And I understand. The night of weeping is over now. I'm not perfect, I still miss my Gabe, I still wish, with all that is in me that he was here, but he's not. I am alive. I am here. Still standing.
Perhaps it is a good thing that the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control are lumped together. One doesn't exist without the other.
Perhaps in this long night, perhaps I can make a case that if I have not had joy, I have had love and patience and faithfulness and gentleness. And as long as I have those, I will have joy again. The morning will come, it has come, it is ever coming.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:19-23.