Recently I had the opportunity to sit at dinner with a nun I had never met. She tickled me by voicing an internal conflict she was entertaining: whether or not her double chocolate brownie would violate her commitment for lent. This inner dialogue, which she shared with us, seemed to cause her some discomfort. Being the considerate person I strive to be, I did not laugh out loud. I also restrained my urge to assure this sweet lady that I was sure God would not mind. I seldom feel compelled to challenge the beliefs of others.
I did, instead, ponder the observations I have had in the past in which I have noticed that religious people often appear to be unhappy people. It has always seemed so odd to me that many of the “very religious” appear to experience so little joy in their lives.
Saturday I was rereading What Are You? by Imelda Octavia Shanklin and I read this: “Identity with God does not take away individuality; it enhances individuality, and gives you character superlative. It does not take away your joy of life; it refines your joy and increases it.”
This statement confirms what I have always realized in my relationship with the Divine. When I am aware of the Truth about what I Am, joyous expression of this Truth is evident in all areas of my life. Out of this flow, the happiness I experience is swayed, in actuality controlled, by the outer events of my world.
Remembering the Truth and living from this remembrance the events of my external circumstance have no power over my expression of joy. I could never be a part of any religion that purposely or inadvertently encouraged its participants to avoid joy as some tenant of faith. The idea that I should suffer in this life in order to experience joy and peace in some promised afterlife has always seemed nonsensical to me.
If my spiritual practice did not lead me to a daily experience which proved the practice worthwhile, I certainly would not expend any energy in such pursuit.
Religion which does not teach the joy to be discovered through communion with the Divine, is not worthy of my time. Once experienced, such communion, changes our lives forever. We soon learn that living in joy is not only our right, but is actually a moment by moment reflection of the choices we are making.