Joy Mentors

18 08 2012

I think this is part one, it feels like it might be as I muse a while about joy.

I was asked to read a book this summer and write a book review; I will post a link once it is published. The book is “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough,” by Kay Warren. It took me a bit to warm up to it, but as I read I found myself reflecting quite a bit on what she wrote and my own experience/inexperience with joy. For this little post, I just want to reflect on the topic of being around joyful people; joy mentors.

Warren reminds the reader that we become like the people we hang out with and I couldn’t agree more. The older I get, the more I pay attention to the “circles” in my life and which are life-giving and which are emotionally draining. It isn’t that “draining” isn’t exactly where Jesus wants me at times, but the life-giving circles are what allow me to engage in less joyful ones.

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us that bad friends ruin good habits (NCV). If we are around “sour, negative, depressed people” all the time, there is a good chance we will be influenced by them and we will take on their attitudes. Negativity is very wearing, cynicism is discouraging and we all need to make sure there is a balance. We need to make sure we are being filled up with joy so we have some to give to those who need it.

On this topic, I really loved what Warren had to say about pint-sized joy mentors. She writes:

All of us need mature joy mentors as role models, but let me tell you about the sweetest joy mentors: children! Nobody has a better sense of humor than small children. Nobody. They will laugh at anything! You hit yourself on the head, they laugh. You make funny sounds, they laugh. You make strange faces, they laugh. “Again!” They demand. And they will beg you to do it again and again and again until you are exhausted. And if you ever laugh at something they do, forget about your to-do list because they will gleefully, repeatedly perform their action and expect you to laugh just as hard as they did for you – each time.

Small children are a joy factory! Because most have yet to experience the painful, harsher realities of this world, they laugh for no apparent reason; they crack themselves up! They’re not embarrassed to have their food spurt out of their mouths while laughing. They don’t care if they fall off their chairs laughing. They will roll around on the floor laughing. Even some of the most vulnerable children on the planet know how to laugh about something. Children provide the purest model for unabashed, uninhibited joy you can find.

Maybe you don’t have kids in your life, or the ones you do don’t live near you. So how can you access one of those little joy mentor’s? Perhaps you can volunteer in the children’s ministry at church or at a kid’s recreation program. Be with your neighbor’s kids…Enjoy the joy that little children have because they are still aware that they were made to be joyful. (204-205)

I have found there is no better way than to recapture joy than to find it among the young and let it poke me in the ribs once again. When I began to hang out with the children in our church community — sitting with them, talking with them, teaching them — I could hear Jesus saying to me, “I am giving this to you as a gift, so you will rediscover faith and joy like a child.” Part way into that year, I got it; I was reminded why Jesus loved children so much and how they would give me as much as I would give to them and probably more.

If we will let them, children will teach us how to laugh again (even at ourselves), to skip, to tell silly jokes, to live in a single moment, to delight in small things and in holy things.

This past spring, a child in a program I help with, was curious about Jesus. He was in grade two. My friend and I talked to him about the life of Jesus and what He is like and how we can be friends with Jesus forever. Without hesitation, the child stood up and raised his hands towards the roof and yelled with completely sincerity and joy, “I LOVE YOU JESUS. I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND. WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK??”

It was such an amazing, innocent, beautiful, joyful response after hearing the Good News about Jesus and we got to be a part of it. I can’t even write about it without feeling a swell in my heart, without smiling, without a tear. It was so pure. It was a gift.

It is easy to close ourselves off to children. To not see them or sit with them or let them affect us. It is easy to just hear the crying, to notice their mistakes and misbehavior’s. But children hold a secret that has to do with joy and they will share it with us, if we let them.

— Teresa Klassen



One response

23 08 2012

I love the line, “Small children are a joy factory.” How true!

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