She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she was not beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful deep down to her soul.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald
I remember about 7 years ago, I thought I knew what joy in Jesus was. I thought I felt a lightness in my soul that I was entitled to when I was focused on Him being my best Friend instead of people, who can be fickle.
I thought the joy I found when I went to events in college was who I was–an identity that loved being with people, that kept up with old friends almost flawlessly, that had life pretty well under her belt and knew God was so good.
I started knowing these things in highschool, when I felt deserted by my best friends. I’d found relief from what I now know was depression by focusing on Jesus as my best friend.
I also decided that I wouldn’t worry about people doing what I wanted them to do for me, whether it was encouragement, inclusion, or understanding me. I focused on being an encouragement to them, which became a habit over long years of careful practice.
I had times of feeling low and worthless, but these times usually broke into a sunny feeling of happiness when I stopped focusing on myself.
I’m sure some of my experience was true.
In college, focusing on others or praying or surrendering my hopes to God stopped “working,” I thought.
Despair kept in and darkened my pathway, making it hard to see myself, my friends, or my God. My delight in seeing people smile back at me and my excitement about jumping from person to person in a crowded room faded and couldn’t carry me through.
I didn’t quite learn what joy was through all that.
I did learn that a happy feeling isn’t the same as joy in the sense of what I was seeking.
Diagnoses like depression snuck into my life and told me life without my old feelings was worthless. Anxiety told me the suffering was too much. Borderline Personality Disorder told me I wasn’t loved or worthwhile.
Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life’s shut gate. Beyond there is light, and music, and sweet companionship; but I may not enter. Fate, silent, pitiless, bars the way…Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, ‘there is joy is self-forgetfulness.’ So I try to make the light in others’ eyes my sun, the music in others; ears my symphony, the smile on others’ lips my happiness.
I have decided that I can still have a purpose in life– not a feeling nor even an identity or energy to do things– but a purpose. It’s to love people, which is what Jesus told us is the 2nd greatest commandment.
I love them by saying good morning to people at work at a nursing home. I love them by playing music that makes them forget their troubles for a while. I love them by feeling empathy and showing it. I love the 2 year old at the house I rent that she is so pretty. I love them by standing up for people with disabilities who can’t stand up for themselves. I love them by sharing my story so they can learn, even though it’s hard.
Not that my identity is based on what I do, because every person is so valuable. And I’m not going to waste what I have.
So I decided that whether I’m happy or not, I can help other people be happy. That’s true beauty.