Along the Way: The Note of Joy

During my time as a seminary administrator, I would often ask, “Are we having fun?” And I would say to staff, “Get as close to a party as you can.” These were lighthearted ways of making an important point: we live and work best when the note of joy is present. One of my delights was to hear staff and students say, “I look forward to coming to campus.”


The note of joy is second on the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I believe that love is the singular fruit, and the additional eight words are expressions of it. If that’s so, then joy is the first evidence of the Spirit’s presence in us, and therefore, it should be the first sign of the Spirit’s work through us.


The importance of joy is emphasized in all the world’s religions. Ani Palmo describes it this way,“If the mind is delighted with what it’s doing, it engages and becomes one with the practice….We need to learn how to use the mind as an ally, so it does the practice with joy… If we stop while the mind is still enjoying the experience, the mind remembers, “That was fun.” It will be enthusiastic again next time.” [1]


I find this principle to be true in retirement, and as important as ever. You may notice that I will stop posting for a while. It is almost always because the note of joy has gone away, and I want to wait until I hear it again in my writing. The same is true for other aspects of my life. As Ani Palmo says, joy engages us in our work and keeps us coming back to it.


Of course, there are times when we act through the impetus of will. Some things need doing regardless of how we feel. But as a general rule, we live and work better when the note of joy is present.


So, I ask, “Are you having fun?”


And I say, “Get as close to a party as you can.”


[1] Ani Tenzin Palmo, ‘Reflections on a Mountain Lake’ (Snow Lion, 2002), 23.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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