Gas Stations and Discovering Joy

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Gas Stations and Discovering Joy by Ryan Pryor

I raced out of the gas station bathroom and the door swung swiftly shut behind me. It was breezy and the air was crisp -- the kind that stings the back of your lungs. I was in a mountain town somewhere in New Mexico. I stopped here on my way home to central Texas. It was a quaint place and from where I was standing you could see where the road out of town disappeared into the hills. I felt like a new person even though I had slept in the back of a Jeep the night before. Do you remember where you were when you discovered true, deep in your bones, joy? I remember knowing outside of a gas station bathroom.

Discovering joy is not prescriptive. It can't tell you to find it in successes, finances, or even relationships. It can only be found in that mysterious place -- within. As Jesus says, "The Kingdom is within..." Maybe it's like the Upside Down from "Stranger Things," except instead of a Demogorgon waiting on the other side, it's acceptance. It's when we similarly understand that there's more to life than what we examine within our senses and often our senses fail us. Yet, from time to time, we slip through into another dimension that's similar but... transformed. Sometimes it's a Moses-like moment in which an old or familiar landscape is set ablaze with significance. It's in these flashes that God asks us to take off our shoes. Celtic spiritual leaders understood this phenomenon and called them "thin spaces." Even for a moment heaven and earth can reach so intimately for one another that grace is felt and the divine experienced. This is a discovery of true joy.

It may be crazy to think I found a thin space outside of a gas station bathroom but I did. Discovering true joy is often feels like stumbling across it. It's a happy accident. It's a moment of grace and letting go. As we approach the final week in Advent, may we find moments and spaces where we too can allow ourselves to let go. May we find that in this release of pressure and expectation, we discover joy in the God who breaks through in unexpected places.