I grab my things and walk out the door, weighed down by thoughts about a thousand things. She sees me and bolts into a sprint, announcing my presence with a scream, “Jaaaaaaaaaaaaami!!”
She leaps onto me. Her smile beams. Her hold is tight. Her liquid brown eyes brim with life. She speaks to me in Xhosa; I reply in English, but neither of us seem to care.
Nina is a three-year-old like none I’ve ever met- she loves love. She is equal parts feisty and fancy. She loves her “new” pink jacket.
Despite her feminine charm, her trauma will be worn for the rest of the world to see- for the rest of her life. Her abuse and neglect can’t be unseen or ignored- her face tells a story of unimaginable horror, scars remain and a gaping hole where her nose should be. She was too young and helpless to fight as rats feasted on her face and fingers.
Unwanted. Unprotected. Orphaned.
Nina has no reason for joy. And yet, she exudes it.
I’ve always thought joy to be a spiritualized word for happy. I knew from my Baptist Sunday school lessons that joy was a fruit of the spirit, but in reality, joy seemed to describe the overly chatty, perpetually peppy- a personality type of which I am naturally annoyed and suspicious.
There is no doubt from the deep wells of joy comes gladness of soul and a happy heart- but there is more.
So much more.
Joy comes only by Holy Spirit- a product grown from the vine abiding in Truth. It is forged from the fires of trials endured with both shaking hands and steely resolve. It is born of anguish, intertwined with sorrow. Joy is the glorious realization of His Presence in the pain, His prayer in the sifting, His nature fully known.
Joy is contentment, but not the kind of contentment measured by how well life is going and our “blessings”. Joy is never the product of comfort, but the presence of the Comforter.
In pain and trial, sorrow and grief- simply put, joy is the settled assurance that God is present, in control, and the quiet confidence that everything is going to be ok. Joy is choosing to offer prayer and praise not for tribulation, but for the One who has overcome the world.
Nina has no reason for joy. She is maimed and marked by evil. Paul had no reason for joy. He was arrested without cause, imprisoned without trial. Jesus had no reason for joy. Yet he endured for the joy set before Him.
Our redemption is His joy.
Nina’s soul is settled in love. Today, her needs are met and the seeds of trust have rooted in the soil of her heart. Joy is strength. Joy is in the present. For tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.
Settled assurance in uncertainty. Quiet confidence in sorrow.
And tomorrow, we begin again.