Monday, February 8, 2016

Defiant Joy

(or "I Wasn't Planning on Writing About my Senior Prom")

It’s how Bono described U2’s half-time performance at the Super Bowl just months after 9/11.
Defiant joy.

In other words, the collision of pain and celebration.
In fact, the conscious choice to instigate their collision.

It was a more-than-delicate commission. Providing “entertainment” in one of the most widely-watched TV events of the year after the heart of the nation had just been ripped apart.

As my husband and I were watching this look back on 50 years of super bowl halftime shows we happened upon, I was drawn to Bono’s notion of defiant joy. Of course I had to over-analyze it, too, namely because the good girl in me feels a bit uncomfortable with the word, defiant. Compliant has always been the style I’ve worn, although don’t worry. God’s starting to show me that it doesn’t suit my soul well.

And so the over-analyzing ensued:
hat's that mean, defiant joy?
What's it look like from a heart stand-point?
Who or what would I be defiant against amidst pain?
And is that okay?? . . .

I know in my head that joy and sorrow aren’t mutually exclusive, at least I have since my old pastor enlightened me several years ago. (Phenomenal message, by the way. Listen to it!) But I don’t do it well, the whole joy-while-grieving thing. I tend to eeyore my pain, at least internally. Not to mention it feels fake and contrived. Even dishonest because it’s not an accurate reflection of my feelings.

Many years ago, I had a very distinctive opportunity to make joy and pain collide – or not. During the spring of my senior year in high school, just a day or two before my Senior Prom, my Pop-pop passed away. His funeral? Prom Day.


That spring, I had accepted an invitation from my good friend to go to Prom with him. Yet my grandfather’s death left me feeling so torn inside. How could I put on my black dress of grieving only to come home, whip it off, and put on a party dress and dance the night away? In my pain, I was entirely averse to the prospect.

So I carried my pain into the stark high school cafeteria, found my friend, and told him what had happened. I think I asked if it would be all right with him if I didn’t go, but honestly, I don’t remember because sadly, I wasn’t really asking. I was just being polite. (Or so I thought at the time.) And in return for my self-absorption, my friend was incredibly gracious and sympathetic.

And you know, with as much as I still wrestle over this notion of inserting joy into the mix of sorrow, I wish I would have known one thing then that at least I DO know now.
That is, it’s not about me.

I wish I would have thought more about my friend when making that decision, rather than just selfishly thinking about my grieving. Because it’s not as if thinking beyond myself would have dismissed my grieving. If anything, it held potential for healing. It always does.

I’m embarrassed at how little I thought, at the time, of what it would be like to be in his shoes. How was my decision going to impact him? I made him miss his Senior Prom, for pete’s sakes. That’s not a loss he can recover. And I know, I know – it’s only high school, Tanya. We’re not talkin’ about the big rocks in life. I know that. Yet I also know that there are some pretty cherished memories I carry to this day from my high school years, back to my years at Laramie Jr. High, and all the way back to my elementary school years.  
Memories matter.

Ann describes this turn toward joy amidst life’s gut-wrenching pain as simply letting yourself be loved:
This swallowing the richness of living,
it comes in letting yourself be blessed.

Letting yourself be loved.

Of course that conveniently appeases the good girl in me because when you put it like that, it’s not so defiant, after all! Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not lookin’ to continue appeasing her because she’s got a lot of growing up to do. That being said, our Father, the Creator and Embodiment of perfect parental love – at times, He accommodates. And even coddles. (Still shocks me.) So apparently, there’s grace enough for the good girl who still lingers.

Interestingly enough, a cousin of mine and I went to high school together. In fact, we were in the same grade. Which means, she faced the same choice I did when Pop-pop died: to go to Prom, or not go to Prom. My cousin chose differently and went to our Senior Prom that night. I was supportive of her decision, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get my 18-year-old brain around it. I couldn’t figure out how she was pulling that off.

You know, 20 plus years later, I still don’t have it figured out, but I think she was onto something. I think at 18 years old, she had a better feel for this Defiant Joy stuff than I do at 40-something. So I’ll keep scratching my head, I’ll keep asking the questions, I’ll likely keep over-analyzing, and I’ll hopefully let my hindsight serve me well along the way.


  1. When my kids are on summer break, I have more time to read. :-) Another great message here...especially the point, "it's not about me." God recently released me from some thick chains that bound me to the lie that it's all about me. And interestingly, when I was in those chains, I never experienced joy with pain, but now I do. So this post really resonates with some recent discoveries I have made. Again, sometimes late is actually right on time. :-) And...I know there's a book in you just waiting to come out. So proud of you for putting your heart, soul, and time into this blog!

    1. hmmm, i bet that's the whole hindrance to being able to receive joy amidst pain -- the preoccupation with self. it would make sense. not to mention it's the whole hindrance to ANY part of the sweet spot w God.

      and thanks for your encouragement. you are clearly more convinced than i am that there is a book in me, LOL. thx for celebrating the "chapters" in the meantime. :)


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