I recently went to the movies with my mom in the afternoon while my boys were at school. Watching the previews is one of my favorite parts of going to a movie. A good trailer fills me with anticipation and excitement. On this particular day, we saw a trailer for an upcoming Jennifer Lawrence movie. The movie looked interesting, but as I watched I didn’t get the tingles, or think that it was a “must see”. What caught my attention was the end of the preview. In the last frame, Jennifer proclaims, “My name’s Joy, by the way”. Turns out the name of the movie is also Joy. (Check out the trailer here.) Well, now I have to see the movie, right? After we left our movie, I went a different way home than I usually go. As I drove, I was watching street signs, and I realized that I was driving on a street called Joy. Not long after I noticed the name of the street, I passed by this wonderful park and at the entrance was a big sign that said Joy Park. What a coincidence to get all these reminders of joy on the same day.
I have never taken my name for granted. I was adopted, and my mother named me Joy because when the social worker called to tell her that they had a baby girl for her, she was overwhelmed with joy. What a great way to be named. For most of my life, I felt like my name truly fit me. I was a happy person, and it wasn’t an act. My nickname in high school and college was Joyful, for Pete’s sake. I came to believe that it was just in my nature to be a happy, upbeat, optimistic person. It’s who I was. I encountered some bumps in the road along the way, and I would have moments of Grief or Anger, but they were just blips on the radar, and I would always return to Joy as quickly as possible. So it came as quite a shock to me when I had a period in my adult life when I came to a bump in the road that was more like a mountain, and I couldn’t shake off feelings of sadness and depression. It was like a foreign entity had come in and kidnapped my Joy and left me with an emptiness that I didn’t know what to do with. Grief and Anger had been mere acquaintances before this. They had come knocking on my door in the past, and I would opened the door and let them into the entryway, but that’s as far as they had been allowed to come in. We would speak for a moment and then I would quickly usher them out before they had a chance to get too comfortable. Joy was my roommate and it was a two bedroom house. No room for anybody else to stay any longer than necessary. This time when they knocked on the door, I answered it, and they pushed right past me and set up camp in my living room. I didn’t know what to do with these unwelcome house guests. It was somewhat of an identity crisis for me, because for the first time in my life, being joyful felt like an act. I felt like a fraud because I was still smiling on the outside, but I felt sad and empty on the inside.
The biggest thing I learned while Grief and Anger were living with me is that they aren’t the enemy. I don’t need to fear them. They have a place in my life just as much as Joy does. I can say that for a time, my name was Grief, and that’s o.k. Anger reared its head to get my attention, and I listened instead of running and hiding under the bed. They didn’t diminish who I was; they added another dimension as I learned to lean into them and learn what they needed to teach me. Grief; Anger; Fear…these are all God given emotions that He gave us for a reason. Turns out Joy was still there all along as well. She hadn’t been kidnapped, she had simply moved to the other side of the house for awhile so that these new guests could get the attention that they needed. It was scary getting to know these new parts of myself, and I couldn’t have done it without close friends and a good counselor. I am so grateful for the opportunity to know them though, because having a genuine relationship with them opens me up to an even deeper relationship with Joy as well. I dug and scratched my way over the mountain with Grief and Anger as my companions, only to come out stronger on the other side. My name’s still Joy by the way, but now when I need to, I make room in my house for Grief or Anger. Throw in a dash of Compassion and a lot of Grace, and I’m starting to see my whole authentic self. It’s nice to meet me!