When the wine’s a-flowin’

“‘Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable orgies of joy because of our belief in resurrection.” ~Robert Hotchkins as quoted by Brennan Manning~

I’ve always struggled with the concept of joy, especially as a Christian. I tend to be a melancholy sort with playful tendencies, so I sometimes give the impression of being a bouncy, happy, even shallow girl. Ask me if I am happy, though, and I’ll probably give an overly complicated explanation of circumstances and personal philosophy. So when church folk start talking about joy I get a little…twitchy. Many times I’ve heard of “the joy of the Lord” described as a kind of spiritual gift, an automatic inner state of being that is immediately bestowed upon the believer. Then I feel my sadness swishing around deep inside as the drops of guilt plop into the pool. I’ve missed something important, and I don’t know how to find it.

Easter Sunday I found myself at a dinner table with friends. In the other room kids were chattering and sharing their meal. I took in faces I’ve known for years and some I really saw for the first time that night. We passed plates heaping with food, and bottles of wine emptied as the night stretched out. The hours flew and were filled with stories and laughter and good-hearted banter. The evening was dangerously close to the romanticized pictures of fellowship and friendship I’ve painted in my mind as I’ve compiled stories of Celts and hobbits and Bruenor’s castle in my imagination.

I don’t understand the concept of Christian joy. But I agree with Mr. Hotchkins that the freedom and cleanness and redemption of the resurrected life releases us to pursue enjoying the abundant life Christ came to give. I tasted of it mingled with the wine Easter Sunday, heard it woven in the laughter of friends and strangers, saw it in the kindness of love and generosity. I wonder how often I’ve missed the beauty of the promise of God found in a simple gift because I was looking for something more “profound.” I am grateful that I wasn’t allowed to miss it that night, and I hope I can learn that most often God’s gifts are found in the laughing, crying, longing, giving eyes of another. I might find my joy sitting across from me, and we might share a bottle of wine.

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