I fight the good fight every day with my email inbox. It is full, and fills up, with advertisements, resources, letters, ideas, opportunities, sadness, and hope. If I can answer some of my emails, I’ve done well. These emails remind me every day that as a pastor I make decisions that affect others. I am faced with dozens of directions, and pray that I lead well. So how do we make the best choices? How do we make sure we do not get fatigued by those demands that stack up in front of us. Whether you are a mother getting ready for your week, a CEO designing a new project, or a student starting a new class, you have to make decisions in the face of changing options.
I was recently in North Carolina and we were eating a meal with a well known musician. Several times she said, “let joy be your compass.” Finally, after awhile, I asked, “what do you mean when you say, let joy be your compass?” She said that she had hundreds of opportunities to sing around the world every year. With every invitation, she would simply ask herself, “is there joy in this?” She said it was not about happiness, or what invitation made her feel good. It was something deeper than that. Many people follow opportunities that lead to fame and fortune even if it destroyed something in their soul, but she determined to make her decisions based on joy.
Joy is a powerful compass. It is a gift that actually helps us navigate the complex demands that vie for our attention. It invites us to slow down, discover what is most important to us and those around us, and helps us decide in ways our ego, pride, fear, or sense of scarcity could never do. In fact, when fear is our compass, for example, we may make a life-time of decisions that hurt ourselves and others.
When joy is our compass, it may not always lead us to the easiest, happiest, or most popular decisions. Joy works more deeply than that. It leads us to the places where life can happen in us and around us.
Joy can be our compass when we put our focus on what is most important. Hermann Hesse wrote that, “The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.” Similarly, Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
As we slow down and let joy be our compass, could it be that we might discover a new way to live in relationship to others? Loving our neighbours takes work and time. Slowing down enough to see and appreciate them may not always be the easiest option, but it may be the joyful one. May you experiment with allowing joy to be your compass as you face decisions and spend your time. May you discover the joy of living in ways that bring peace to your heart, home, and community.