“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy by your presence. At your right hand are delights, even to the end.” (Psalm 16:11)
Joy is an emotion I have felt in its purity but a few times in my life. Last night was one of them.
At the end of my new “Restorative Yoga” class, I was in a deeply relaxed state in the Supta bhaddah konasana – my feet strapped into my sacrum, a sand bag covering my eyes – when the Divine Mercy image of Jesus came to me, causing a feeling of great elation that actually left me smiling.
I felt so enveloped in the red and blue rays emanating from his pierced heart: it was a warm cleansing bath of mercy that covered me the way the Peruvian blanket swaddled around my arms held them: snug, safe, secure.
States of happiness have never come easily to me. I was always a sober child, as evidenced by my first grade picture below.
To this day, people are genuinely surprised at hearing me laugh out loud, it catches them so off-guard. I have even had comments such as “I have never heard you laugh before.”
Laughter may be the music of joy. But silent feeling of it is its prayer of delight.
Joy, of course, is also a name. In Hebrew it is rendered as “simchah,” pronounced “sim-khaw,” while the Greek word is “chara” (khar-ah). In both languages, it is a noun of feminine origin.
Had my son been a girl, “Joy” would have been her middle name, in honor of his paternal grandmother, as it was her middle name.
”Michelle” would have been her first name. It is the name the Mom who raised me said she had hoped my birth mother would name me. Instead, I became Cheryle, a derivation of “Charles” for the man allegedly my birth father, and “Arlene,” for my biological maternal grandmother.
”Michelle Joy.” She is my little girl who never was after endometriosis and ovarian cysts plagued me into having a hysterectomy before I could have another child. Definitely not a joyous choice, but necessary to my being able to work productively to support the child I already had.
It would be decades later before I would let myself grieve over the fact that I could not have more children. Instead I just fiercely held onto the overwhelming love I already had for my first-born and refused to think about the rest.
Perhaps the fact I take such joy in the granddaughters and great-granddaughters of my friends is my displaced longing for a daughter. I don’t know; I just go with it and take my delight in their now teen years.
And of course I have a beautiful daughter-in-law whose company is always a joy to me, as well as young women who have looked upon me in a motherly way.
So I cannot say God completely denied me the full joy of motherhood as I had imagined it in my fertile years: a boy and a girl.
Instead I have learned God sometimes presents us with joy in unexpected ways we couldn’t have anticipated. I would never trade them, despite a wish my original family desire had been fulfilled as well.
But as the Bible tells us in Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning.”