My grandfather diedrecently. He was 95 and lived a full and long life. The last time I was in California, I preached in the church in which I grew up. Knowing that my grandfather was getting to the point that it was difficult to move around, I did not expect to see him. But he made it. He sat through that service and looked proud like only grandparents can look. After the service, we went to my parents place where we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, my niece’s third birthday, and my grandfather’s ninety-fifth. I sat down and talked to him and it was good. When we left California, I told my wife, “I think that may be the last time I ever see the old man.”… it was, and I pray to my God that the memory of that moment never leaves me. It has already been my fuel for joy in moments of despair.
My son had surgery around that time. There we were going to a specialist for a consultation. The next thing I knew we were scheduled to have him put under and on a table. I cannot lie, I was scared. Then I told people. I told the leadership in the church. I told friends here in town. I told people we needed prayers, thoughts, and comfort. People prayed for us, and told us they were thinking about us. Many people told me, “If you need anything, and I do mean anything, let me know.”… and they were serious. I felt better because I knew we were loved, and I pray to my God that the memory of that moment never leaves me. It has already been my fuel for joy in moments of despair.
My son started riding a bike the other day. Two wheels without training wheels. At first he never thought he could do it. I stayed behind him, running in that strange bent-over way to make sure I was holding onto him without running into the bike. I would let go and he would go a couple of feet before getting scared. Then I would get him again. Then one time I let go and he was off, he was riding a bike. “Look mommy!!! Look daddy!!!” He said this with the kind of excitement only someone learning to ride a bike can understand. But I looked on in another way, with the kind of pride only a parent watching a child grow up can understand. I pray to my God that memory of that moment never leaves me. It has already been my fuel for joy in moments of despair.
Last night my daughter cried out in her crib. I went and picked her up and lay down with her on a bed we have in her room. She cuddled up to me and buried her little head in my neck and said softly, “dada.” Soon she was sleeping on my chest, but knowing enough of the world to know that moments like these will not last for long, I stayed there for sometime and soaked her in. When I laid her down, I took the puppy outside. There in the middle of my backyard, I knew I had to take a moment to thank God. I simply felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I looked up above me into the night sky and found that the moon was directly over me. Through some the trick of the atmosphere, it formed a halo of light that circled the sky over me. There I stood in a stunned silence, expecting to thank God, and yet overwhelmed with the light show I got to encounter. For some time I stood there in the chill of the night staring up. If a neighbor was watching, one of them must have said, “It finally happened. The Presbyterian minister has gone crazy.” And maybe I was crazy, crazy with amazement at the beauty of it all, crazy with gratitude, crazy with hope, because I took it as a good omen. I started praying for people who needed prayer. It was a holy moment, and for a second I wondered if God would show up next to me and stand next to me staring up at the sky. God never did, at least not in person, but I pray to my God the memory of that moment never leaves me. It has already been my fuel for joy in moments of despair.
What is your fuel for joy in moments of despair? All around us there is reason for joy. The cynic would point out that there is also reason for misery. But I would counter there are only reasons to have people who offer fuel for joy so that joy abounds. To those who are hurting and in need, we must become their fuel for joy! God offers a world so full of beauty, a life filled with surprise, and moments of inspiration to each of us with the express intent that we in turn offer the world what God has given us, joy!