Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Call of Joy

In The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon writes to a junior demon to berate him because his human has recovered from a period of spiritual dryness. He writes,

“And now for your blunders. On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there- a walk through countryside he really likes, and taken alone. In other words, you gave him two real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as to not see the dangers of this?  The characteristic of real Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real and therefore, as far as they go, a touchstone of reality. How can you fail to see that a real Pleasure is the last thing you out to have let him meet?”

In 2018 I’ve been reading through the works of C.S. Lewis, and what has struck me time and again is his deep conviction that God calls us to joy. All joys are an overflow of the Joyfulness of God, and they come to us, as a free gift through Jesus, the source of every joy.

So, I decided to write a list of things in my life that call me to joy. And maybe as you think about them he’ll call you to joy too.

But a couple of caveats before I begin:
  • I am not feeling particularly joyful right now. I’ve felt pretty anxious and angsty all week, so please don’t think this is coming from a place of self-satisfied shiny radiant ease.
  • This is an incomplete list.
  •  Sometimes there are no other joys in our life but Jesus himself. Recently as I’ve found the battle for joy a little harder, I’ve been struck time and again by the fact that Paul’s command in Philippians is possible: “rejoice in the Lord always.”  Sometimes our sorrows outweigh all the smaller calls to joy, but in Jesus, there is always basis for rejoicing. That call goes out to those in prison for Jesus, to those who have losses only the New Creation will restore, to those who have faced what seemed to them to be worst case scenarios. But that’s a different blog post.
  •  I hope that delighting in all these joys are fundamentally reasons for delighting in Jesus himself- the Giver of all good things.

1)      Music. Songs that remind you of when you were younger and even more of a mess, songs that remind you that there is other joy and other pain beyond your own, songs that are beautiful and harmonic and cause your heart to swell with a thousand emotions that lie beyond the scope of words. Songs you can dance to, celebrating the fact that dancing is an exercise in not taking yourself too seriously and indulging in self-forgetfulness because who actually cares if you look daft when you are soooo in sync with Chumbawamba’s vibes (entirely hypothetically of course). Music calls me to joy, and points me to the God of harmony.

2)      The sun is a call of joy: sunrises that fill up the skies with all the best colours and in a different combination every morning and sunsets that however good your filters are you can’t possibly be captured in a little Instagram box; their glory far exceeds their capacity to gain you likes and the warmth of the sun and the fact that is makes things grow. And things grow!  And the sun turned up to volume 11 so that skies become super blue and piercingly clear and behave as though you were a fool to ever imagine a cloud could belong there. And the sun being turned down to low so that at a certain hour on a certain day even the most appalling human architecture looks interesting, or hopeful.

3)     Beverages: your first sip of coffee on a morning when you have felt only tired and then it’s warm and tasty and immediately a comforting promise that the day will happen, as other days have happened- and maybe it will be better than you expect it to be. Cups of tea: the cup that was made for you by someone else, the cup that accompanies a hopeful chat, the cup you’ve been dying for, the cup you have time to enjoy every single warm sip of, the cup that comes with a cream tea and sings “Saturday” and is all the sweeter because you know you have a whole pot of it. And the pot is pretty.  

4)      Children. There’s something joyous about entering a smaller world where what really matters is the right way of brushing a hedgehog’s hair or where delight means having a whole 50p to spend on whatever sweets you want. 

5)      Books. I mean, books bring me joy before I’ve read a word- just their being there is like having countless little doorways to countless exciting new worlds at your fingertips. And sometimes the doorways are beautifully designed covers that convey something of the wonder of joy or reality or hope or whimsicalness or hilarity of the world you are about to enter, and sometimes the covers are dull and dumb but then you open them up and you’re suddenly standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon or in a mysterious train carriage or in a submarine under siege and somehow the fact that the doorway gave you no clue makes being in there all the more exciting. Books! Books that don’t really win you anything other than the pleasure of having read them, of forgetting yourself for a while and entering another world, another life- maybe it’s older or harder or maler or easier or similar but the key is that even if it is like yours, it isn’t yours! 

6)      Outside. Let's start with flowers. Just that there are flowers are a big indication to me that God is for my joy. They come in so many different sizes and colours and smells and they bloom in different seasons and they expand towards the light with sometimes ridiculous enthusiasm and they are relatively cheap and significantly cheerful and they transform a room from just a space in to a home that humans want to hang out in. And I suppose connected to flowers are trees, and insects, and rivers and just the whole of outside that you step out in to and are reminded that your little world really is just your little world- that the sky is still the sky- a large dome that has encompassed countless little worlds through the years and little lives that kept going and loving even when it was tough. And the sky is an umbrella over all of the excellence of nature. And on that note- wellies. I mean, surely wellies are made for sheer delight. Wellies say- we’re going to get muddy but WE ARE GOING ANYWAY, because mud, mud GLORIOUS mud.

7)      Laughter. I really think that laughter is a beautiful testament to the fact that the world is good. Even when life is at its worst, sometimes laughter can creep up on us and overflow with something that makes us a little more self-forgetful, or relieved, or aware that at the centre of the universe is Unspeakable Joy, not misery, that ultimately will overcome everything! Obviously not everything funny is godly. But there is so much in the world that reminds us that we were created for delight: the doddering of a toddler in to a serious interview about trade in North Korea, the sassiness of cats, the comments on a Nifty video where they rightly get rinsed for showing you how to make a bathmat our of your own underwear… (To quote C.S Lewis again: “Those who call for Nonsense find it comes.”)

8)      Things going well that don’t always go well, by which I mean- the joy of knowing that today your boiler isn’t broken, today your clutch hasn’t gone AWOL, today you have your voice, today your headache is better than it was yesterday, today you did remember milk, today work wasn’t in every way terrible, today your phone stayed charged for as long as you hoped it would, today you didn’t burn your dinner, today there wasn’t a traffic jam, today you didn’t get a massive dollop of Nutella on the middle of your new white blouse. Oh the countless joys we might have in those very things that are such kicks in the teeth when they fail to show up. 

9)      Sleep. You sleep for 30 years of your life. This means for 30 years of your life, in practice at least, you had a correct perspective on yourself- that the world would keep on turning without you, that giving yourself rest matters, that God is running the show in gracious kindness even when you are out for the count,  that some days really just need to have the “switch it off and on again” approach. 

10)   Learning about things you find interesting just because you find them interesting: why William Blake wrote Songs of Innocence and Experience; GDPR; the ten year history behind the outcome of a 1990s court case, why the French Revolution was more effective than the American one, how Alanis Morrisette became famous (she once supported Vanilla Ice in concert); how and why people are able to live in incredible subterranean homes, why killer whales seem to go psychopathic in captivity; how to say "I'm sunbathing" in Malagasy ("Mitanin andro aho", FYI) ; how to knit stripey baby hats; how to swim front crawl faster; how to take better photos or where the best places are to go to take good photos; how to make an origami dog (without losing your mind) and so very, very, very much more.

What are some of the ways God calls you to joy?

(I am asking you so that you answer in the comments. My brother read my blog for the first time the other day, and nearly commented, but then didn’t because he saw that no one else had so thought it actually could not happen. LOL!)


  1. Chats with friends who make you feel like you're just fine the way you are. And remind you of it when you suggest otherwise. :)

    Chats with aforementioned friends over delicious brunch/dinner.

  2. Bacon.


  3. Geraniums.

    Those rare moments when you find yourself thriving in your work.

  4. Thanks for this post Phil, it really inspired me to look for the blessings and be thankful. There have been loads this week as we’re on holiday, e.g.
    My mum.
    Our car, and especially the way its extra headlights come on at the sides when you turn corners.
    Health to be able to do most things I want to.
    Things you find on the moor and at the beach.
    Watching a child learn new things.
    Food, that tastes so good as well as filling us up.
    Living in a peaceful country with leaders we are not scared of.

  5. For Dave: fire pits, outside and doing exercise.
    For me: toasted tea cakes, freesias, mountains, friends.

  6. Great post and great reminders! Having a cup of tea right now and marvelling in the wonder of central heating.


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