In her
memoir, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy
Day said: “Joy and sorrow, life and death, always so close together!” 
My experience
mirrors hers. I remember the first time Amanda performed in a little preschool
choir—how happy I was to watch her stand with her friends and sing those
nursery rhymes, and how sad I was that such simple pleasures do not last—not
for the children, and not for their parents.
And, I
remember how my eyes filled with tears when Eliot got his first hit in a little
league baseball game—I was so glad for him to get on base, so sorry that the
world is divided into winners and losers, and so troubled that our kids learn far
too early in which category to place themselves. 
Joy and
sadness often come together.  We weep at
weddings and laugh at funerals.  The borders
between grief and gladness are not clear and fixed.  We laugh until we cry, cry until we laugh,
and laugh to keep from crying.
Life is
usually troubled and joyful,
simultaneously.  I think that’s why the
Apostle Paul urged his friends both to “rejoice evermore” and “to pray without ceasing.” 
Pray about the troubles.  Be glad
about the joys.  In all things, lean into
the nearness of God. 
Buechner, in an interview, spoke of the struggle he has, as he ages, not to
allow the losses and diminishments he has experienced to color his whole
life.  He admitted to feeling “shadowy
and sad, geriatric . . .  Yet I don’t want to write out of the shadowy
part of myself, but out of the part that is still young and full of joy
.” I
am struck by Buechner’s determination to write out of his joy.  He’s well acquainted with the shadow of
grief, but he’s drawn toward the golden light. 
He chooses gladness. 
We can
choose to keep company with gladness, even when it feels natural to side with
sadness.  I want, though, to be careful
with this claim.  There are seasons in
some people’s lives when clinical depression and/or addiction interfere
mightily both with their capacities to perceive reasons for happiness and joy
and with the powers of will to open themselves to those reasons, even if they perceive
them. I am not suggesting, in the least, that people who need the help of
medical treatment for depression should be able to “snap out of it” or “sing
out of it” or “pray out of it.” 
I am
talking, instead, about the choices we make as part of ordinary life—and the
bog of depression and the prison of addiction are not the “locations” of  ordinary life—life with problems and
possibilities, losses and hopes, disappointments and delights.
Some of us can
box ourselves into ways of looking at the world which prevent us from choosing
gladness, even though we could.  We’ve developed
a habit of privileging melancholy.  It’s
a habit we can unlearn.  Delight requires
a discipline, a discipline.  In her story
The Wide Net, Eudora Welty said, “The
excursion is the same when you go looking for you sorrow as when you go looking
for your joy.”  The discipline of delight
attunes our senses to joy.
We have very
limited choices about the pain that comes into our lives, but we do have many
more choices about whether we will allow it that pain completely to cloud our
vision of the glory and goodness that are just as surely and truly a part of
The “discipline”
is not new and it is not hard to explain. 
It is really hard to put into practice, and I am such a novice.  It involves letting every experience of life
become the raw material for communion with, wrestling with, or resting in, or
giving thanks to God.  It means praying
by living and living by praying. 
In Psalm 42
are two beautiful stanzas which I am sure I do not fully understand:
Deep called to
deep at the noise of your waterfalls;

    all your massive waves surged over me.
By day the Lord commands his faithful love;
    by night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life (CEB).
Here’s what they mean to me just now:  God cascading, abundant, and powerful love is
always sounding, and there is something in me which resonates to that sound, no
matter where I am.  As I draw near, God washes
over me with, and immerses me in, the ever-flowing love.  It reaches me and restores me, like night
songs along a river.  My prayers become witnesses
to, questions about, and praises for what I learn about life when I lie next to
God’s glad river and rest near the waterfall of Spirit.

These prayers are echoes of those night songs of God’s love. They
help me to “see” and to “hear” my life as God has seen and heard it and as
grace and mercy have washed through it.  Slowly,
I learn to see and hear what God sees and hears more simultaneously and “in the
present moment.” The more we see and hear life with God, the more we will see,
hear, and feel the numberless reasons for joy, even the joy the seeks us
through pain.