Every once in a while we run across a pithy saying that is more than an aphorism. That is what happened when I ran across this quotation from Anne Lamott.
“Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on its feet.”
We might be tempted to acknowledge that it sounds nice and move on. However, it the quote seems to beg the question how we define joy and peace. Joy and peace are words that get casually tossed about and sloganized. This obscures the deeper meaning of these words. We have Joy dishwashing liquid. No matter how great the dishwashing liquid is there is no way that it can make cleaning dirty dishes a joyful experience. An Almond Joy candy bar might give us a few minutes of pleasure and even happiness, but is that what joy is all about?
Peace Brand Rain Boots may keep our feet dry in a very colorful and stylish manner, but I doubt few people find the peace of God through them. Peace Frog is a hip line of beach gear, but does it provide a sense of unity with all humanity?
Joy and peace as Lamott expresses them have very profound meanings beyond what the consumer brands offer. Joy is a profound sense of connectedness with the Divine. It is also a sense of concord between our self and the world about us. Not necessarily that we are oblivious to the chaos and discord of the world, but we are not overwhelmed by it. We do not allow the world to upend our inner sense of solidarity with God. We can be uncomfortable, unhappy, in pain, or worried, and still be filled with joy. Joy is a state that we attain by communion with God. It is not transient unlike happiness and pleasure which are fleeting.
Joy takes work. It is not effortless and it does not just happen to us. Contemplative prayer and periods of solitude and silence are needed to obtain and maintain this inner state. The saints of the Church are those paragons whom we can study to see how they attained joy. Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, and John of the Cross are prime examples. Each in his or her way found joy that would override their illnesses, pains, doubts, and hardships. We are called to study them and learn from them as we seek joy.
Peace is the flipside of joy. Peace is not just the absence of conflict or a state of quietude. Indeed, true peace, God’s peace, can exist within turmoil, conflict and the noise of the world. To me peace is a by-product of joy. When we have joy in God we find the peace of heart and spirit that allows us to move through the melee that is modern life without being overturned by it or feeling the need to engage in it. It does not mean we ignore it, but anxiety and chaos do not have power over our spirit or interfere with our relationship to God.
So peace is joy in a state of restfulness. The joy I feel sitting in the woods listening to birds or on a busy street corner watching the frenzied world pass by without feeling the need to become part of it.
Joy is peace at work. It is as we like to say, being in the world but not of the world. It is being present and engaging life while carrying peace of heart and mind that keeps me centered in myself and in God. When we can attain this combination of joy and peace, peace and joy it is like when athletes say they are “in the zone.” Everything seems effortless, problems roll off, barriers are lowered, and life is no longer a struggle even when all around us are struggling.
Seek joy and peace and living in the God zone. They really is a game changer.