When you need joy

The other day I was reminded of this story, and while vacations are winding down and children are heading back to school, I thought it might be a good time to post it here. It’s a two-part story, but I share just the first section here. I hope this remembrance brings you joy.

When our children Aaron and Bethany were seven and five, my husband received an invitation to speak at a camp meeting in Massachusetts. We decided to have an adventure traveling by train to the Northeast and while we were at it, we’d fit in home school educational opportunities by stopping in Washington D. C. for a few days.

I soon discovered train travel was not the preferred way of travel for Jerry and the children.

I had traveled by train before and felt nostalgic as if I were in an old 1940’s movie.

My family thought it was torture.

But they endured and we arrived at what was then the beautifully restored Union Station around ten in the morning. We stayed the week at a lovely bed and breakfast on Capitol Hill owned by the sister of a dear friend. We were so tired from hours of  traveling but we wanted to taste Washington immediately, so we walked over to the Capitol where we just plopped down flat on our backs on the Capitol lawn. Aaron and Bethany looked for buckeyes while Jerry and I enjoyed the blue sky. (I don’t believe this area is accessible to the public today, so it is an especially sweet memory).

The next day after a morning of sightseeing we found ourselves in the basement of the Museum of Modern Art around 2:00. We were hungry and had just discovered the food court closed for the day.  Directly ahead of us was a museum guard, and Jerry and I thought he could surely point out a restaurant not too far from where we were. (Although in Washington everything seemed far from anywhere one happened to find themselves).

The guard was beginning to answer our inquiry when he stopped mid-sentence and his eyes widened in shock. He lifted his hand and screamed, “Tell them to get off of that!”

We wheeled around to find, yes, our children swinging on a giant sculptural mobile like it was a jungle gym.

We couldn’t move fast enough to remove them from the piece.

I remember nothing about where we ate that day. I had been an art major and was fully versed on museum etiquette: Never touch the art. I had never touched the art. I never dreamed anyone I was with would touch the art much less swing on it.

But my children’s defense was sure. Nobody had told them that sculptures could look like playscapes. And after the shock wore off, I had to admit that colorful mobile did indeed look like something on a playground. And I wonder if the artist might have been going for something like that feeling anyway.

It seemed God often has to point out to me that I am way too serious about life. I miss joy because I’m trying to get everything just right. The key is that I’m trying to get everything right instead of allowing Jesus to do the work. That’s when burdens can get heavy. Instead of allowing myself to plop down on a lawn somewhere on a regular basis, I want to work the plan, finish the job, and follow the rules.

I’m not advocating for swinging on museum sculptures, but I am saying that if much like my children did, we had eyes to see we would find so much more delight in this old world.

My children have always done a much better job seeing the joy in life than I do. A little child often does lead us. Find joy, today, friends, maybe even do a little swinging. Preferably not in an art museum.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).


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