The discipline of joy is the tuning of our attention to the fingerprints of God in the everyday realities of our lives, writes Joel McKerrow.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
There is a truth that the successful, great artist knows –
That what others call ‘luck’ in the creative world actually requires a great deal of preparedness. To be so disciplined and primed that when opportunity presents, they are able to run with it. One thousand hours of practice to make them ready for anything.
Take my American friend Brooke. She is a highly respected photographer with a massive following throughout the world, and she is one of the hardest workers that I know. She does not let up. She is successful because she is constantly creating new imagery, working at her craft and pushing herself. Everyday. Everyday.
There is a truth that the deeply joyful person knows –
That joy is the same. Even at Christmas. She must be worked at. Practised. She is not the fleeting fancy of happiness, of a moment that makes you smile. If joy is a fruit, then the ground must be prepared, the seed planted, the tree watered and looked after..until the juicy apple arrives.
This to say that joy, like creative success, takes cultivation. It takes someone willing to be prepared and disciplined in the fostering of their joy, that regardless of the season, they are able to tap into the deeper source of life inside.
This year, life, for many of us, has been difficult. There have been moments of happiness, but to live somehow content in the everyday throughout this time has felt sometimes impossible. I have struggled. Over and over.
And yet, I know the times I have been able to slow down and find joy in the present moment of my everyday are the times that gave me the gumption to keep going. But it was a choice.
Always a choice, to take a step back, in the midst of the everyday, and no matter what was happening, to find something to be thankful about.
This the discipline of joy – it is the tuning of our attention to the fingerprints of God in the everyday realities of our lives. Training ourselves to look again and look again and look again, until we can find the light that is hiding in the dark.
It is not easy. This re-habituation toward joy. I fail, and I fail again.
But, let’s bring it back to the world of creativity for a moment. For the other thing that all great artists know is this – that they only became great because they allowed themselves to first be terrible. The stumbles are what made them. Their failures are what taught them. They did not give up.
It was in allowing themselves to not be very good, that, over time, meant they could become great. And even then, the best writers I know start off every new project with a dismal first draft, for they know it is the only way to come into some final brilliant outcome.
Friends, this Christmas, in the everyday realities of our stumbling, bumbling lives, may we choose joy.
May we look again and again until we find where she is hiding in the very ordinary.
May we cultivate this kind of eyesight and may it change our way of being in the world.
Joel McKerrow is a poet, writer, educator + Tearfund Artist Ambassador.