A Fresh Perspective on Joy
When my two-month-old gazes at his mobile, his joy is completely unadulterated. I'd forgotten what that looks like.
Recently my two-month-old noticed his mobile. Hanging above his crib, stuffed horses circle to the tune of Brahm’s lullaby when the dial is wound. I’d wound it for him several times ever since we started laying him in the crib, but his infant eyes hadn’t quite locked on.
But then they did. And it was magical.
Now when I wind the dial, his eyes widen, transfixed on the horses twirling above. Then — it never fails — he breaks into a giant grin, stretching from toothless gums to bright blue eyes. For as long as the mobile plays, and as long as I keep winding the dial to play it again, he’s in heaven.
I actually got emotional the other day as I wound the dial then stepped back to watch this process unfold. Maybe it was just postpartum hormones, or the fact that I’m his mom. But I think it was because I’ve never seen joy so pure. So fresh.
During those first hazy days after bringing our boy home, I stared at him for hours, marveling at how fresh he was. I couldn’t think of a better word to encompass his sweetness, innocence, and newness.
Then the milestones started coming, and fast. Every time he reaches a new one, it’s bittersweet. Of course it’s a privilege to witness all his firsts — first smile, first giggle, eventually his first step. But it also stings. Because with each first, a little bit of that freshness goes away.
I think that’s why his mobile-induced delight caught me off guard. I witnessed joy, completely unadulterated. I’d forgotten what that’s like. Life experience can easily spoil our fresh perspective, making us cynical and distracted with pain and fears.
A Spoiled Outlook
For me, the soured perspective reveals itself in multiple situations.
Like when I see newlyweds in love, and scoff at how they’ll fight when the honeymoon’s over, rather than rejoicing in the holy union they’ve just established.
Or when someone offers me a compliment, and I immediately analyze their motive rather than simply enjoy the fact that there is something about me they admire.
Or when I spend time with loved ones, and am overcome with sadness and fear at the thought of losing them some day, rather than enjoying them right now.
This kind of sourness spoils even small pleasures, like an “I love you” or a tasty snack. How many daily delights do I completely miss because I’m distracted by fear, bitterness or some other negative thought?
Fullness of Joy
This is not what God wants for us. In fact, the Bible paints a different picture — a picture of unlimited joy and constant rejoicing.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we become just like a baby again, having no experience with hardship. It doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of the pain around us. That would be plain ignorance, or willful denial. And the Bible also calls us to wisdom and truthfulness.
So how do we remain joyful? The key is in Psalm 16:11. “In your presence there is fullness of joy,” it says, “at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This is David writing. The one who endured prolonged hardship and unfair hostility and committed grave sin. And yet he found the fullness of joy — in God’s presence.
Paul echoes this point in Philippians. In chapter 4, verse 4, he writes, “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Just after he tells us to rejoice, he encourages us to do this through prayer — which happens in God’s presence.
Like Little Children
Even during life’s trials, we can keep our perspective fresh if we remain in God’s presence. There, we are able to find joy in his eternal love and goodness, and the hope he gives that our pain is temporary. Even though the world is grim, our “heart is glad” (Psalm 16:9) and guarded with peace “which surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7).
When our hearts are secure in this eternal joy of the Lord, we can better notice life’s little gifts, too. We can fully celebrate the daily delights we encounter, rather than pit them against our pain or our fear.
This is what God wants for us. Maybe that’s one reason he tells us to be like little children. When they see something that delights them, their joy isn’t marred by the cares of the world. It overtakes them just like that smile overtakes my baby’s face when he looks at his mobile.
I believe that kind of pure, unadulterated joy can be ours when we find it in God.