When my adult class one Sunday morning considered how one of the byproducts of living in community is that by the time we all get mixed up with one another, we see Jesus. We see maturity. We see wrestling with our own demons and we see getting through. We see grief and grace and joy and pain.*
I asked them to consider some of those marks in our community, ones that might even look like the Spirit’s fruit, like love and joy and peace and patience. Or joy. What about joy?
When you think about the kind of joy the Spirit births in our depths, who among us comes to mind? Who do you see walking around that makes you stop and say, Joy?
That was the question.
In the time a breath might take, I heard a single name. And a murmur of whole heart agreement around the table.
Of course. Jackie. She is Jesus out walking around. She is joy with legs.
I found Jackie later that morning and gave her tender frame a light embrace — I feared breaking her — as her tears welled at the idea that someone might first think of joy when they thought of her. Or thought of her when they thought of joy. Or whichever way.
Jackie. Joy. Jesus. Arm in arm in arm.
A few years ago, I had a different conversation with Jackie. She was days away from risky surgery, complicated by myriad health conditions, and she’d stared down the palpable uncertainty already. We didn’t know if she would be back.
“Either way, I win,” she said, matter of fact like choosing between the cream filled bismarck and the fried cinnamon roll at the bakery counter. “I’d like to continue on, but if I don’t, well, that’s okay too. I know where I’m going. And I’ll see my husband again. It’s been 35 years.”
She came through surgery better than ever. And then went on to battle other health problems, defying one it-won’t-be-long now prognosis after another. She stayed with us longer and longer.
Jackie entered hospice care around the time Lane’s mom turned toward the end. The two were neighbors, giving us some extra time with her when we waited with Estrid. No matter how she felt, Jackie continued to flow joy, even in her less lucid moments making plans to sit down for a cup of coffee the next time we came.
We sat with her in the dining room, watching a musical special on television. She dozed in and out in her wheelchair. She awoke, and Lane touched her hand. “You know what I don’t like about watching these movies?” she asked. “Everybody’s in the same place but nobody’s together. When I get to where I’m going, let’s spend some time.”
We expected that she and Estrid would both be home by Christmas. But Jackie continued her surprises, over and over, day after day.
My friend Jackie went home this week.
Either way, she won.
When you say joy, I know now exactly what it looks like.
But, I’m going to be seeing a fair bit less of it.
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*Paraphrasing a bit from Tim Chester, You Can Change