THE human sense of joy is fleeting. Ever at the whim of circumstances, it seems so very illusive and limited. Triggered by caprice, it is all too fragile. Thus, joy seems always to be a disappointment, a cheat. But there is a joy that is lasting, that enables us to sense something higher than limited, material perceptions allow.
How do we find this joy? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Mortal mind accepts the erroneous, material conception of life and joy, but the true idea is gained from the immortal side'' (p. 536). To me, the assurance that we can view life from the spiritual side promises that we can, indeed, attain the experience of lasting joy. Children often have an innocent anticipation of this, but knowing that joy comes to us from God puts our joy on a permanent, spiritual foundation, no matter what our age!
When I was a boy of preschool age, I had a sense of joy that was just marvelous. In fact, I can remember it being so wonderful, so intense, that I thought at times I would surely explode. Sometimes this joy would come over me quite unexpectedly, causing the world around me to take on a sparkling and cheerful appearance. Anything could trigger it, but most often it just welled up spontaneously. It was like the flow of water when someone turns on a faucet, so that I always thought of it as a spigot of joy. Clearly, this joy was the most memorable and beautiful experience of my childhood.
Even when I was ill, I remember thinking that the joy was real, and the sickness was unreal. I said this once to someone and received the reply ``That's silly. Illness is a fact of life that we just have to accept. The joy you are feeling now is just your imagination.''
My joy faded after that. I missed it and was always looking for it, hoping it would return. Years passed. Then one day when I was in college, I bought a copy of Science and Health. Imagine my surprise at learning that I had been right all along. Joy-- spiritual joy--is the reality. And sickness is what is unreal. I felt my joy returning to me as I read the book. It welled up as strong and fresh as when I had first experienced it. But this joy was different. It was more secure, and I was certain it would never be a disappointment or a cheat. It was as though someone had turned all the spigots on. This was the joy I had been striving for and seeking all along.
Joy is the precursor of exalted thought, a divine idea, that comes to us in time of need and lifts us up to a higher conception of life in Spirit. Joy awakens us to the reality of God's presence. It is what we feel when Christ is gently touching us with the unction of the Holy Spirit. This loving touch of Christ melts the mists of material sense so that we glimpse, through awakening spiritual sense, God's spiritual creation, ever perfect and intact. Joy is the herald of this spiritual reality. It is the telltale clue that signals God's loving presence. This presence, divine Love itself, sends forth its joy just as the sun sends forth its rays. As Love is a constant presence, so joy is constant. Responding to this God-given joy, we more easily surmount the problems we face and break through limitations matter would im-pose on us. We yield more easily to the influence of Love's healing power and presence.
Just as we can trace the solar rays back to the sun, which is their source, so we can follow easily the stream of joy back to its fountainhead, divine Love. Then we feel our relation to God and understand our oneness with Him, our creator. Experiencing this, we can understand more fully what Jesus meant when he spoke of ``living water'' to the Samaritan woman at the well. He said of this living water of Spirit: ``Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life'' (John 4:10, 14).
This springing up of joy accompanies every healing I have had or seen others have. Truly, coming into the understanding of my spiritual being through the revelation of the Christ Science has opened all the spigots of joy and unlocked the very gates of paradise!