You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The women who are ahead of me in this cancer experience have tried to teach me that joy is a choice. Regardless of our circumstances, we can choose to be joyful. Happiness may be dependent on positive events—I’m always happy after a clear checkup. Joy, however, is cultivated as carefully as a garden. And like a garden, it takes work.
Several annoying things occurred yesterday (none of them life-threatening), and I was full of unhappiness, forgetting to choose joy. This morning, I am trying to write my way back and pay attention to the current of joy. Outside, it is still not quite light, but I can hear a bird chirping anyway. Maybe that’s my symbol—a bird who knows that the light is coming and sings appreciatively before the fact.
In the Episcopal tradition, we sometimes speak of the dead as being “in the nearer presence of God.” For me, those words are a reminder that we are already, here on Earth, in the presence of God. How could it be otherwise, when God is everywhere and in everything? (I know: the idea of nearer in relation to the presence of God is not logical.)
The psalm says that in God’s presence (which we’re already in) there is fullness of joy. Fullness of joy can be part of my experience, whether I’m headed for surgery, for chemo or radiation, or for another little “procedure.”
Joy is a choice, sometimes a deliberate effort. I can mope around, as I did yesterday because I cannot control the world, or I can listen for the sound of birdsong and other evidences of God’s sustaining love.