Joy Can't Wait

Theatrical release poster via Wikipedia

For the past few weeks, the American people have been embroiled in a highly publicized, highly politicized, hotly debated question—Is Disney plus any good?

What else did you think I was referring to!?

Like millions of other Americans, the Richmond family signed up for a one-week trial of the streaming service, eager to see for ourselves what all the excitement was about.

As I understand it, Disney plus features the best of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Also included will be some select movies from 20th Century Fox. Last Sunday, I watched The Sound of Music with Lexi—a great movie I should add.

This past week, I was hoping to watch the movie Joy on Disney plus, as it was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which Disney now owns, but it wasn’t available on the streaming service. Despite having some 7,000 TV episodes and 500 films, I’m starting to think Disney plus is a bit overrated.

Anyone else remember that movie Joy?

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, the movie details the true story of Joy Mangano, a woman who despite being “valedictorian of her class and being accepted into a fancy college,” had since found herself struggling financially and juggling a complicated family life after staying home to help out after the divorce of her parents.

And, if you remember the movie, “complicated” barely scratches the surface of her family drama.

Joy’s mother, Terri, who lives with Joy, spends all day in bed watching soap operas.

Joy’s under-employed, wannabe singer ex-husband, Tony, lives in the basement.

And, before long, her father shows up at her door-step, literally being abandoned there by his now ex.

Joy’s only solution is to put him in the basement with Tony, the ex-husband, who her father despises.

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, she finds herself stuck in a dead-end job that barely pays enough to take care of her family, let alone pay of the constant repairs needed in her run-down house.

Soon, Joy’s father Rudy meets a wealthy widower named Trudy, who invites the whole family out for a sailing excursion on her late husband’s beloved sailboat.

Despite insisting that no ride wine be brought on board in fear of staining the wooden deck, Trudy is wooed by Joy’s ex-husband Tony’s singing and allows some red wine to be brought on board.

As predicted, the group breaks out a bottle of wine, celebrating the moment in time. But just as they’re reveling in their merriment, the sailboat hits a patch of rough water and jostles the boat, forcing joy to lose her balance and fall to the deck, breaking her glass and spilling wine all over the deck of Trudy’s deceased husband’s boat—much to the dismay of Trudy.

Seeking to make amends, she grabs a mop and bucket, and on her hands and knees, mops up the spill. Yet, after wringing out the mop with her bare hands, she notices her hand are bleeding, cut by the shards of glass in the mop.

Though the family returns home and tends to Joy’s wounds, they are all aflutter over her seemingly fragile condition. Encouraging her to get a good night’s rest, they give her a couple of doses of cough syrup and she soon falls asleep on the couch.

As she drifts off to sleep, a soap-opera is airing on a TV nearby, and soon Joy slips into a fanciful dream where she is in the midst of the soap opera.

In the dream, as she seeks to adjust to her surroundings, her childhood self comes up to her and asks;

“Seventeen years, think about it, for seventeen years, we’ve been hiding…

“We used to make things…then that all stopped, what happened?”

“when you’re hiding, your safe because people can’t see you, but the funny thing about hiding is you’re even hidden from yourself.”

And with that, she awakes, in some sense a new woman. She tells her ex-husband to move out of the basement, then orders her dad to do the same.

Then, riding her wave of inspiration, she goes up to her daughter’s room and with some crayons and some paper, sketches out an idea of a revolutionary new kind of mop.

While that dream is meant to signify the transformational moment in her life, I think that transformation actually started out on the boat, down on her hands and knees, scrubbing the boat deck while her family callously looked on. To me, that was the turning point in her life.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation at some point in your life. You’ve been beaten down by family, by finances, by life. Like Joy, you used to make things, you used to do things, you used to dream big. But the brutalities of life, of responsibilities, of injustice have left you beaten and bloodied on the floor, staring up confusedly at those who should be helping you and encouraging you but are instead mocking you and disparaging you.

Maybe, like Joy, it was in that moment, or shortly thereafter you wondered to yourself, “what happened.”

“I used to dream big. I used to be proud of who I was. I used to be somebody.”

Like Joy, beaten down and bloodied by life, you’ve disappeared, you’ve hidden, you’ve decided you’ll stay unseen until it’s safe.

But, the funny thing about hiding is that you become hidden from yourself.

Your dreams, your goals, your desires become hidden too.

And, each and every time the inkling arises to come out of hiding, you remember that pain, that mistreatment, that abuse, and you say to yourself, it can wait. I can wait.

But, here’s the problem. The more we do that, longer we stay hidden, each time we say it can wait, we can wait, it makes it that much more harder to come out.

Those voices of doubt get louder.

Am I good enough, do I have what it takes?

And, seventeen years goes by.

Maybe these past few weeks, as you were seeing those 2009-2019 posts all over social media, you thought to yourself, where did the years go? Where did I go?

How do I come out of hiding?

I’d invite you to look with me at two stories this morning. The first story comes from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, who was an ancient prophet writing in the midst of a national tragedy.

His country had just been invaded by the Babylonians, with countless people being taken by force to live in Babylon. It was a catastrophe like none they had ever seen and in the face of such disaster the people were fell into a deep despair. Anguish and misery were everywhere, joy was in short supply.

Yet, in the midst of such a situation, the prophet Isaiah spoke a word of hope.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35:1-2 NRSV)

His words were not so unlike the words of another, several hundred years into the future. Although, rather than coming from a well-known prophet and religious leader, they came from a lowly peasant girl.

Mary, who we now know as the mother of Jesus, was in perhaps a far worse state than Isaiah. A young woman in a male-dominated society, she had access to far little privilege, and to make matters worse, she had become pregnant despite being unmarried, unthinkable in that time.

Yet despite external circumstances which should have her disillusioned and perhaps on the brink of despair—she’s far from there.

Having gone to her aunt’s house—seemingly less out of her own anxiety but more in regards to the anxiety of others, she is beacon of hope and joy.

In Luke 1 she’s quoted as saying;

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name."

Both Mary and Isaiah, despite the apparent hopelessness of their present situation did not despair and instead were able to find joy in the seeming darkness. How the heck did they do this?

Remember, Isaiah’s homeland had just been invaded, thousands of his countrymen likely killed in battle, thousands more taken by force. His life, his homeland, his people—would never, ever be the same.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, despite our romantic visions of the holy mother some 2,000 years removed, was in desperate position herself. Men in her time didn’t take kindly to unwed mothers—likely her and her child would be forever shamed and excluded.

In the midst of these seemingly dire circumstances, how did they summon this joy?

This week marks the start of the season of Advent in the church world. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the future return of Jesus to this earth at the Second Coming.

In the season of Advent, we mark the time by way of advent calendars, the lighting of advent candles, and daily devotions. At its core, it is a season of waiting.

But, this Advent, we’re going to think about things a little differently.

Rather than focusing on waiting, I want us to think about what can’t wait.

This time of the year is such a busy time of year, with the parties, the gift-giving, the family gatherings, there’s hardly time to keep our head on straight. Almost anything not essential to our immediate survival gets pushed off into the new year. Which is sort of fitting in way. The New Year is commonly seen as a new start, a new opportunity to do things differently.

But, things year, before the New Year, I want to challenge you to consider what in your life can’t wait.

For Mary and Isaiah, joy couldn’t wait. But how?

Again, Isaiah, in the midst of national tragedy—for Mary in the face of societal rejection, how did they find joy, have joy?

I want to look at the definition of joy.

Joy is an “emotion evoked by well-being, success, good fortune.” Or, “an emotion evoked by possessing what one desires.”

For the person Joy, in the movie, despite the insults of her father, the belittling of her sister, the dysfunction of her family, she was able to find within herself that she was good enough, that she had what it takes, the she herself was enough.

In the movie, that’s illustrated in her encounter with her younger self in the dream.

For Mary and Isaiah, I believe their joy stemmed from their deep-down confidence and assurance that God was with them, alongside them, loving them.

Despite the calamity, Isaiah was convinced that God had not abandoned his people, God still had a plan for them, God still had big dreams for them. And it was that assurance of hope, that sense of well-being that gave him joy.

Despite the uncertainty, Mary was convinced that God was with her, that God had big plans for her, that she was an important part of what God was seeking to do in the world. And it was that assurance of hope, that sense of well-being that brought her joy.

I wouldn’t say that Mary and Isaiah were happy—for joy isn’t happiness.

Happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.

Again, remember their situations; Isaiah’s country had just been invaded, his neighbors deported, his brothers killed.

Mary was a young peasant girl facing alienation and humiliation from her friends, family, and neighbors.

On the surface, there was nothing in their lives to be happy about.

But, because of God’s presence, God’s love, God’s assurance, they could live in joy despite the chaos and calamity of their external circumstances.

I want you to know that with God, you possess all that is needed, all that you could desire, and that you are good enough.

Maybe like in the movie, you’ve been putting things off, you’ve been putting yourself off. You’ve put off believing that you are enough, that God thinks you’re good enough, that have what it takes.

Maybe you’ve been saying to yourself, I can wait. Until things improve, until my kids get older, until my job gets better; it can wait, I can wait.

I want to tell you this morning, it can’t wait. You can’t wait. Joy can’t wait.

I’m not asking you to be happy.

Your life might still be hard, your job might still might suck, your situation still precarious—but you can still have joy, you can still have the belief and assurance that you are enough, that you’re good enough, that you have what it takes—because that’s what God thinks.

In the movie Joy, it was Joy’s grandmother Mimi who was the one constantly affirming, constantly supporting, and constantly loving her.

For Mary, for Isaiah, for me, for you—it’s God, within us and alongside of us constantly affirming, constantly supporting, and constantly loving us.

In this season of waiting, I want you to know that joy can’t wait.

You can’t wait knowing that you are a child of God, you are enough.

I know, for some of us, that’s hard to believe. It’s hard to accept. I know for me, growing up in a religious culture that constantly preached the inherent sinfulness, the inherent brokenness, the inherent dysfunction of humanity—of me—it’s taken me a long, long time to really, truly believe that God really loves me, that God thinks I’m good enough, that I am enough.

And, I’ll confess, sometimes the doubt, the despair creeps back in, sometimes it’s hard to believe. I think it’s a life-long endeavor, knowing and trusting in God’s love for us, finding joy in the assurance that we are a beloved child of God.

But when you know you possess within yourself all that you need, when you know that you are good enough, when you know that you have what it takes, that’s when you experience joy.

Despair is toxic. Despair holds us down, it limits us, it keeps us hidden.

That can’t remain—joy can’t wait—you can’t wait.

Know that God loves you, God affirms you, God supports you; you are a child of God. You knowing that, you finding joy in that, can’t wait.

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