T.S. Tuesday: Stairway to Joy

In T.S. Eliot’s poem, Ash Wednesday, he describes the climbing of a spiral staircase: climbing, spinning, revisiting the same space, the same struggles, over and over again on a never ending journey up and up.

The figure steps. Climbs. Rounds the corner.

“At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitful face of hope and of despair.”

Like Eliot’s figure, I’ve rounded a corner. I’m here in Guatemala. I’ve stepped out (or up?) in faith.

But I look back and see the same the shapes, the same hauntings, the same oscillation between hope and despair. I look forward and those stairs look so dang steep and my legs are so tired and I wonder “haven’t I arrived yet?”

I’m working to relinquish burnout. I’m learning to trust the spark. I believe that God will restore my JOY. Not just the joy of his presence, but the joy of participating in work that brings me LIFE. I’ve been itching, waiting, squirming for joy.

I wanted it the easy way.

I bought a gratitude journal over a month ago. The lines remain blank.

I’ll write them when something really big happens, I reasoned. When joy is restored. When the feelings come rushing back.

I wanted to get whacked with Joy. I wanted healing to be quick. I wanted a big Kaboom. I wanted it big and vivid and unmistakable. And I didn’t want to work for it.

God’s big enough, isn’t He?

Now, rounding the corner, I pause in the stairwell. I glance back at the familiar figures of discontent, unease, despair.

I’ve played the woe-is-me-game, and I’ve won. Which actually means I lose.

It’s a lesson I’ve learned a thousands times.

As Ann Voskamp writes, “Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.” ― One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are

How do I not know this yet?

I blogged about it all last year. I reaped the fruit of faithful gift charting, joy stacking.

And yet I got here to Guatemala and thought the gifts would be as vivid as the woven scarves and blatant as the bold buildings all around me so I wouldn’t need to write them or convince myself of their gift-worthiness.

How could I forget the stacking of gifts, the cataloging of daily delights, is what brings Joy in all its glory?

Not the other way around.

And so I recommit to stacking joy. To stepping forward in gratitude. To building my life on thanks. As I round the corner, pause for a moment on the stairwell, I take a deep breath, grab my journal and pen, and begin to climb again this spiraled stairway to joy.


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