The Cost of Joy

 

Many years back, I wrote a little tale entitled “The Caretakers”, in which two lads find themselves tasked with the saving of the Prince of Wolves. However, they learn that the salvation of the Prince requires of them the sacrifice of their only Hope, and consequently they discover the reward of Joy resulting from their obedience to the demand of Love. I am entering an excerpt here in order to illustrate a spiritual truth concerning Joy:

 

Abigail returned their gaze with compassion and spoke:

“Here in the Garden, things are seen as they truly are, and not as they sometimes seem – for in the Light no shadow can endure to veil the verity of the thing. That is why you now see Shera as a Princess, for that is the noble nature of her being. But though we say we see, our eyes often do not comprehend the implications of the Truth set so plainly before us.”

“The Prince of Wolves is not dead, as you understand,” she went on to explain. “His life is here, kept secure against the Day of Hope. Yet there is one service of Mercy still wanting, which only you can perform, and it will be perhaps the hardest of all you have been Called to do. For it is your own Hope which holds the Answer to your question, and none other can wield it for you.”

Then Jeremiah directed their attention to the tree under whose spreading branches they stood. Its branches showered down from the slender trunk like a weeping willow, and the leaves shimmered in the Light, changing colors as they rippled in the breeze, now gold, now scarlet, now hues without name.

From the center hung a solitary Fruit, glorious to behold, the sight of which caused tears to well up in their eyes. The Fruit was shaped rather like a water balloon, fluid and quivering in the swaying branches as if about to burst. Its skin had a delicate translucent quality which shone like burnished gold, as though the fire of a thousand suns burned within.

“This is the Fruit of Hope,” said Jeremiah. “Long ago, this Day was foreseen, and the Master Gardener Himself planted its Seed against the present need, to come to ripeness at the appointed Hour. We are the Caretakers, but it is He who makes it to grow. The Fire within is distilled from the Love which led you to this place, drawn from the Well which flows in the heart of the Garden. In the course of your quest, the Fruit has swelled and ripened, and the Day at last has come for its harvest. At the very moment it is plucked it must be crushed completely, for kept within is the fulfillment of your Calling.”

At the prospect of destroying the fair Fruit, the boys were dismayed, for to savage so priceless a vintage seemed a sin. But Jeremiah, the poet-gardener rebuked them, declaring:

 

“Hope gone un-garnered is most bitter to behold!

It grows rapidly rancid and ravaged with mold

Oh! The wither of wonder when the Fire grows cold

When Glory gone grievous doth tarnish the gold!

 

“But Hope that is crushed, by Faith’s wound is not killed

For the essence of Love is the blood that is spilled

Liberation of Life and a Promise fulfilled!

Oh! When Grace goes to golden, glad-given, free-willed!”

 

Daniel and Kerey gazed down at the Prince of Wolves, compelled to confront the terrible Choice: to hoard Hope, or to let it be dashed, and lost, in Love.

“Greater Love hath no man than this: that he lay down his Life for his friends,” Abigail offered, reminding them of the Master Gardener’s own words. And the wills and the hearts of the boys were won by the wisdom in the words; they would freely sacrifice all Hope of home for the Joy of seeing Hope resurrected in the sleeping Prince.

 

(From “The Caretakers”, by Rodger Hamilton © 1997)

 

Any discussion of Joy benefits from a comparison with happiness: Happiness is a response to circumstance; Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Happiness is vulnerable to the foibles of fate; Joy is unassailable, allied with Peace. At times, happiness and Joy are at cross purposes with one another - happiness can be self-seeking, whereas Joy is the reward of deference to a higher motive. There is a worldly maxim which says, “You can’t buy happiness.” Maybe so, but the highest Joy comes at the cost of greatest obedience.

Luke 9:23-25 quotes the words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

This is the crux of the crisis the protagonists of the story were compelled to confront – to choose Joy above happiness: the Joy that results from obedience motivated by Love, by a higher interest than self-fulfillment.

This is the crux (“cross”) which confronts us all! So… “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the Joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)

 

It’s something to ponder…

Rodger