Choosing Joy

I know in my last post, I shared about how oppressive and sad the building I work in feels. It feels even more so on a beautiful weather day. I know some people believe you can overcome anything if you simply choose joy. While a happy heart can make things easier to bear, the fact that you must choose joy implies that things around you are not giving joy. As humans, we do not have the strength to remain in any emotion constantly without God’s intervention. I believe that God created all the emotions and intends for each of us to experience each one of them. Merely choosing to be joyful seems like avoidance of what God intended and may instead be choosing to be sinful. If God intended for us to be in relationship with each other, he meant for us to experience all the emotions with each other not just one. It’s experiencing the not great emotions that allow us to empathize with others who are struggling and give us the ability to provide the best care.

March is Women’s History Month and I’ve been sharing stories about inspiring women each day. That put me in mind of Queen Esther. She was a woman in a position of honor, but it was during a time of great fear. She lived in a beautiful palace and had luxuries at her disposal. She could have easily chosen to be joyful and ignored the reality of an annihilation plot of her fellow Jews. Her adopted father, Mordecai, convinced her that she should intervene with the King on behalf of the Jews. Esther was unsure of what she could or should do. Mordecai convinced her by telling her that perhaps God put her in this position for such a time as this.

I often think about this when I respond to families as a fire department chaplain. When I get called, I know that I am entering a place where grief has taken over. I pray on the way there for God to work through me, of course. But I also must prepare myself to be open and vulnerable for those to whom I am about to minister. I thought about this today because I had the privilege to overhear some conversations that were taking place between case managers and their clients. I heard a case manager trying to work out options for a dad on home detention to see his daughter perform. I heard another case manager playing word games with a client that was delighted to join in. I even got to hear a case manager celebrate with a client because a Judge ruled that they were moving to GPS monitoring instead of home detention. Not every conversation is indeed pleasant or happy. Sometimes I hear the case managers admonishing a client. Sometimes I hear clients make patently untrue claims. I have noticed that the conversations that start negatively often end up positively because the case manager has taken the time to listen and care.

While the conversations case managers are having may not seem as dramatic as responding to an emergency, to the people on monitoring it feels every bit as serious. Clients on monitoring are people who have had their lives suddenly changed. They are under constant surveillance and tethered to their home. A case manager can call a client’s device if they aren’t answering their phone or set it off silently or with a siren. A client must ask to be scheduled out of their house every time they want to leave to get groceries, a haircut, or their kid off the bus. I am not sharing this because I don’t believe monitoring is an acceptable response to wrongdoing. The invasiveness of the device makes the case manager’s attitude all the more important. I’ve been invading too. I’ve been listening and I say unequivocally that they have been placed here for such a time as this.

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