There are a food foods, that I just associate with the most unabashed enjoyment; chocolate cake, tater tots and spaghetti and meatballs among them. As fruit goes, watermelon feels about as joy filled fruit as I can think of. Even when it has seeds it creates fun through seed spitting while grapes and oranges just bring annoyance with their seeds.
I think part of my association with watermelons and joy involves the crazy family tradition shared with my extended family; throwing the watermelon down on the driveway to break it open instead of cutting it. I would stand out on the grass with my cousins, who were all boys, watching my uncle throw down the watermelon. As soon as it cracked open, my cousins would begin what seemed like a cross between a tribal dance and the celebration of professional wrestlers after a great match. It was pure mayhem! For this only-child, it felt like pure abandon and summer time fun.
Although my kids have never participated in this tradition, their love of watermelon is no less than mine. It seemed like an easy choice to put joy together with this fruit.
Joy is a funny thing. It isn't just happiness, it's something more. It is far more sturdy than happiness, with its persistence irregardless of circumstances. At the same time it is mysterious and much harder to define.
Joy isn't just the happy free for all that I associate my watermelon crushing.
I went in search of a good definition of joy and found this definition written by Rick and Kay Warren, "Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation."
Rick and Kay Warren go on in their devotional to give a really compelling image of life that incorporates both joy and sorrow.
"We tend to think that life comes in hills and valley. In reality, it's much more like train tracks Every day of your life, wonderful, good things happen that bring pleasure and contentment and beauty to you. At the exact same time, painful things happen to you or those you love that disappoint you, hurt you, and fill you with sorrow. These two tracks-- both joy and sorrow-- run parallel to each other every single moment of your life.
That's why, when you're in the midst of an amazing experience, you have the realization that it's not perfect. And while you're experiencing something painful, there's the glorious realization that there is still beauty and loveliness to be found. They're inseparable.
If you look down the train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can't distinguish them as two separate tracks. That's how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus Christ in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense."
I've seen this definition played out in the lives of people I love. I've seen joy as they have faced illness, as they have parented children who are struggling, as they have recovered from infidelity, as they have experienced sudden loss, and as they have cared for those they love as they slowly slip away. If joy were just an exact synonym for happiness joy would impossible in each of these instances. Instead, I have seen joy and even experienced it again and again in the face of pain and sorrow.
I know that just a few days ago I wrote that the verse we memorized about joy would be an "easy one." I'm not sure there is an easy verse about joy. If I am choosing something to memorize, and if I am giving my kids the gift of God's word in sealed into their memory I really want to them to know this balance; that joy can run parallel to sorrow. So, we are memorizing James 1:2-3.
As we ate watermelon for breakfast this morning, and sprinkled it with salt to make it's flavor more complex and sweeter, It occurred to me that my adult definition of joy is also a good choice to go with watermelon. Joy, like watermelon on it's own is sweet, but it becomes so much richer and complex when it is seasoned with our salty tears.