Message from Pastor Ben – March 27, 2020
A familiar scene: you are stuck in traffic. Living close to NYC, the often clogged I-95 interstate is almost a way of life to us; almost as integral as anything else. Maybe just reading the word, traffic, brings up some emotions. Frustration? Impatience? Anger? Anxiety? Fear? A side of us we would rather not share with others?
I’m curious as to why we have these negative reactions to traffic and how they come upon us even if we aren’t in any particular rush. It’s almost like traffic brings up a deeper issue, a rebellion against paralysis. “How dare you take away my freedom?” “What am I supposed to do now?” “Hasn’t Google Maps or Waze figured out a way around this?”
More often than not, we don’t positively respond to outside forces dictating the pace of our life. Traffic is a prime example.
And if you think about it, we’re kind of living in a giant traffic jam. Many of us are confined to our homes. We can’t go to our offices or familiar places of work. Schools are closed, “essential businesses” only remain open, and our couches are starting to get deeper indents. We might feel stuck, restless, angry, or even a little paralyzed. Our pace has been thrown off and forces outside of our control are keeping us in place. Just one big traffic jam.
Do any of us like traffic jams? Yes, I’m serious. Are there any among us who long for disruption within the perceived plans of our days? Any who welcome our paces being thrown off toward the end of self-discovery? Or who just like an unexpected slowness?
Traffic jams present such excellent illuminations into who we are, and we can respond in various ways. I wonder if we’ve ever considered the option of giving up, remaining, and letting the traffic jam do its work. Yeah, I’m one of those weird people who think traffic jams can be redemptive. And I’m convinced of this because of one word: joy.
Joy’s presence, much like faith, is only revealed when it’s tested. We don’t know if we are joyful unless we are in a position where joy is threatened. As I say to my Confirmands, many of our qualities are only revealed when we’re put in an uncomfortable position to practice them. Joy is such a quality.
We don’t own joy. That might sound counterintuitive. When talking about joy, people often ask “Are you joyful?” “Do you have joy?” I think that’s a mistake.
Joy isn’t something we possess like an item or a thing. I think that joy owns us.
We can think of joy as a teacher, something outside of us which desires to instruct us. It’s a gift asking for our submission. In the case of the traffic jam, joy asks us if we would respond with its serenity, calm, and peace. Joy asks if we would breathe, find the beauty, and rest. Joy can be present when happiness is not. Joy is like the ocean’s deep when there is a storm upon the waves.
During our FCC Live Chat yesterday afternoon, I asked for those present to share their joys. They shared their time with their families, the memories they are building with their loved ones, and the beauty they are experiencing during this COVID-19 traffic jam.
Rather than having our spirits broken, the people of FCC are being schooled by joy. We are noticing the ‘silver linings’ or those holy moments embedded within the difficulty. Because joy, I firmly believe, is about redeeming our shared creation. Where we would want to respond in frustration or anger, joy takes our hands and soothes us. Joy provides laughter where we would rather scream.
And joy is beckoning to us all in the minute details of our everyday. Joy is urging us to see the divine within the mundane, the miracles we take for granted, and the whimsy of creation.
Be joyful my friends. Or rather, submit to joy.
Pastor Benjamin C. Geeding