If we were seeking a word that would best suit what would we desire and hope from marriage and family life, then perhaps that three letter word ‘Joy’ might just fit the bill. It is neither too long to write, nor difficult to pronounce, and feels good on the tongue. Joy fits neatly into a pocket, or a handbag: it brings into effect exactly what it says.
We can test this theory by using the word in relation to the people we know and love: our spouse, children, or wider family. How does it make us feel to say that someone gives us a sense of joy? Please notice, how once this word or thought is expressed we feel the eruption a deep sense of well-being and inner happiness. Joy is something tangible. We can express it as a word, but we experience it as an emotion in the very fibre of our body. Joy, in fact, points us to its true source, God.
Joy played a pivotal role in the life of C S Lewis acting as a homing beacon, which drew him back into a life-long relationship with God. Lewis clearly distinguishes between pleasure, which however pleasant is of the moment, and an intense feeling of joy. Once experienced, it is a sensation that we want again. Perhaps, we have a memory of a moment when we experienced joy at this level: on our wedding day, the birth of a child and daily the gift of each other. Throughout his life Lewis' experienced blasts of joy, writing that Real joy is something that: “jumps under ones’ ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights”. Not a bad description.
Joy, for Lewis is a phenomenon, and is his best translation of the idea of Sehnsucht (German: longing). So, if we think of joy as longing, then it is pointing us to another source, one that will fulfil our deepest longings and need. The true source of Joy is our Heavenly Father. The three letters of Joy remind us of the Trinity. In the living out of the vocation to marriage this true source of joy is always there to help sustain, grow and nurture us.