Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On the Strange Heartbreak of Joy

I tell you this to break your heart,
    by which i mean only
that it break open and never close again
    to the rest of the world.
- Mary Oliver
Once in while, I've felt my heart pressed with greater joy than I knew it could handle. It's always a quite realization. I marvel once I notice, and I gradually comprehend that it's no temporary jolt but a new abiding way of being. Whatever space in me receives joy has expanded.

Joy is a way of understanding reality. Each time my feeble little heart and brain grasp a new grain of Truth, it grows my heart, and since nature abhors a vacuum, the new space fills with wonder at that Truth, which is to say, it fills with joy. Since the Truth abides forever, so does joy.

The only way to make that new space is to break apart the old one. Each time I've felt that press of joy, it's been in the wake some realization or experience that forces me to let go of some old understanding*. This kind of letting go always feels like a death, albeit a teeny one, but in the equally teeny scheme of my life, persisting through some of those experiences feels like a hell of a trial. I feel my heart twinge in my chest - literally, physically - and I wish it weren't so even as some other part of me sees joy coming.

God breaks my heart all the time, over and over. It feels like He's wringing me out. In my better moments I understand that feeling is just me twisting away from Him, and I understand that the breaking I feel is joy clearing out things that weren't part of me to begin with. And clearing out those things is a kind of death, is a kind of heartbreak, is the only way my scaly heart can make room for joy.

Like rings on a tree trunk, each time this happens, joy grows exponentially. Each heartbreak lets more of the world, more of Christ, seep in. And each time, I am bigger, stronger, with more to give and more space to receive.

*These aren't even sad things, necessarily. A great example is my time in Brownsville. I have nothing but positive things to say about those two years and those ten people, and also it was the hardest, most uncomfortable thing I'd ever done.

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