Finding Joy

By Reverend Andy Fleming, Chaplain

Tilly O’Sullivan, Year 10 Visual Art, Leaping 2023 (oil paint on canvas). Artist statement: My individual surrealist painting ‘Leaping’ aims to portray a sense of escapism, exploring the idea that we are never truly free from society and ourselves. When life appears inadequate, we often look to media for a sense of escapism (the internet, books, or art). I utilise tone and perspective to this effect – in doing so, the fish appears that it is actually leaping out of the frame. This strives to create an objectively uneasy feeling, customary of surrealist art. This is furthered through the partial use of mise en abyme, or the effect in which a picture reappears within itself. This is reminiscent in the plaque below the frame, which displays the same name of the artwork itself.

Last week, Rev. Katherine and I attended the Canberra-Goulburn Anglican Diocese Clergy Conference. The theme for the conference was Joy and Renewal. Much of the sharing by the presenters during the plenary sessions took me back to my days as a Health and Physical Education (HPE) teacher, when the benefits of quality relationships were discussed. It has been some time since I taught HPE, so it was a timely reminder to re-focus on seeing the joy that arises out of relationships.

One of the beautiful sentiments that resonated with me came from one of the six Hebrew words for joy. Firgun is “a genuinely unselfish delight or pride in the accomplishment of someone else; giving credit where it is due, generously and without jealousy.” In a school community, as either a parent or staff member, we all have the opportunity for firgun. This response to the good fortune of others creates a positive community that is not unlike that of which God intends for human relationships.

One little exercise that helps me to think about finding joy is to think of one thing I could change in my life, either to do more or less of, to make space for joy. It is a fantastic, simple idea. It was no surprise to me to find that it is a matter of re-focusing my energy on my relationships with my family and friends.

True human flourishing is found when we live according to the way God intended. When we live this way, we experience God’s redemptive love that leads to joy. Psalm 126 was written for the Israelites returning from exile in Babylon and can still speak to us in times of our own life’s challenges. Even when things aren’t going well or to plan, we may still be able to find joy in others or creation. Joy can be found in remembering the blessings of our past and a future of hope through God for the moments that we can’t possibly see yet.

May you find joy in the week ahead, Rev. Andy.