My parent’s first child was born after a long and difficult labour but they were excited to have a daughter. One afternoon as my father was leaving the hospital after visiting hours, Matron passed him in the corridor. Almost as an afterthought she said, “Oh by the way Mr Rowlands, your baby died”. He watched her disappear into the distance, her stiff, starched uniform somehow a picture of her cold, hard, heart.
He was left alone, reeling, groping for reality, desperately trying to come to terms with the words that moments before had ripped through his heart. I guess in that inconceivable moment he understood, as never before, his mother’s grief at the loss of both her daughters, one at 10 days and one at 10 weeks.
He stumbled out into the fresh air, fighting back the tears stinging his eyes. He struggled to hold himself together and work out a way to tell my mother before she heard it the way he had.
My mother told me that the ensuing weeks and months were some of the most difficult of her life. Prams and strollers in the street, mothers and their babies in shops and even nappies on washing lines brought her to tears and heightened the reality of her loss.
Her second pregnancy brought with it significant fear and trepidation. The nine months seemed like an eternity but then I was born, small but healthy. Their joy was overwhelming. Though they had chosen a singe name for me they decided to give me the middle name ‘Joy’ because of the joy I had brought into their lives.
What a precious reminder over the years that I was valued and loved. But joy has always been rather a mysterious emotion for me. Generations of writers and thinkers, theologians and poets have tried to wrestle with the essence of joy.
So what is this difficult to describe emotion we call joy and what makes it so indescribable?
Three times in his youth he experienced this inexplicable emotion and he spend a large part of his life longing for another taste of it and searching to discover just what it was. In fact it became a theme of his life.
Finally Lewis came to realise that joy ultimately has a greater purpose, it points towards its author. When he came to know Christ personally; he came to understand that joy is a signpost pointing to its source. Unlike happiness and pleasure which are emotions for the here and now, joy is a gift of the Spirit that deepens our longings ... a taste of eternity ... a looking forward to the banquet table and the celebration.
Julian of Norwich said, "The fullness of joy is to see God in everything". Joy, despite the chaos and disintegration of morality, rumours of war and man's inhumanity to man. Joy amidst the times or wonder and beauty as well as the times of trials and suffering, because we know the author and realise this is only a chapter in the story he is writing.
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Pierre Teihard de Chardin