The other day I was setting up a board game to play with my son Gerard. Knowing that green is my favorite color, Gerard offered me the green pawn.
“You can use this,” he said. “It will make your game more enjoyful.”
en.joy.ful adj. 1. Simultaneously inspiring both enjoyment and joy
synonyms: none known
An accidental coinage? Yes, but also an interesting one. The word “enjoyful” – apparently a cross between “enjoyment” and joyful” – alludes to two emotions which are so alike that they appear to be almost inseparable. Would it be possible to experience enjoyment without joy? How about joy without enjoyment?
I think we can look to St. Augustine to answer the first question. As a young man, Augustine had the means to indulge his senses at will, and that’s exactly what he did. He enjoyed a “life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions.” But in opening the door to every sensual indulgence, Augustine closed the door to authentic joy. The things that he enjoyed gave him pleasure, but they did not – could not – give him joy, which comes from living a life in conformity with God’s will. Augustine came to realize this after his conversion to the Faith. About his relationship with God, he wrote, “And what is our Joy, which He says shall be full, but to have fellowship with Him? And this joy we rightly call our own, this joy wherewith we shall be blessed; which is begun in the faith of them who are born again.”
What of “joy without enjoyment”? It’s a notion with which I became all too familiar during my college years. I was away from the Faith at the time, believing that I had outgrown religion. Determined to be happy without God, I faked joy. Not only did I manage to convince others that I was happy, but I also managed to convince myself. But I wasn’t able to derive any real enjoyment from campus events and extra-curricular activities. My superficial joy existed independently of enjoyment, because its presence relied on an act of the will.
God can use the most mundane things to get His message across. In this case, He used a little green pawn and a childish neologism to remind me of the source and meaning of Christian joy. True joy is not merely a reaction to the things which please us, but a fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is more than human; it is God-given, the joy of Christ fulfilled in us.
“He had perfect joy on our account, when He rejoiced in foreknowing and predestinating us; but that joy was not in us, because we did not then exist; it began to be in us, when He called us.”
Copyright 2011 Celeste Behe