By: Sheridan Voysey
For the past few months I’ve been doing an experiment.
It goes back to an experience I had late last year. Sitting in a hotel room planning the year ahead, six words dropped into my mind as if from heaven: Go at the speed of joy. I’ve been trying to put them into practice ever since.
Joy as a Practice
Go at the speed of joy. The phrase resonated because I knew 2023 would be hectic. I was starting a charity, something I’d never done before. I was launching an evidence-based course on adult friendship, years in the making. We had a major renovation project going on, and work-related travel already in the diary. Being a conscientious lad, often exhausting myself in pursuit of doing a job well, I knew joy would flee in the face of overwork.
So, armed with my new mantra, I decided to get proactive about joy this year. I would work at an enjoyable pace, revising my to-do list whenever joy started to ebb. I would make space for friends, films, and other joyful things, and commit to reading novels at night rather than sending ‘one last email’. In short, I would make joy a practice.
The plan worked wonderfully… until March! That’s when the University of Leicester came onboard to trial our Friendship Lab course. Once dates were set and documents signed, there were participants to enrol and courses to deliver—and soon I was working 12-hour days to keep up. I revised my to-do lists and cancelled everything I could. I took Sundays off—the age-old wisdom of a sabbath never more proven to me—but it wasn’t enough.
My attempt to go at the speed of joy faced another challenge just days after the university trial ended. Heading for a drink with friends to celebrate, just moments after entering the sunny garden the deckchair I sat on collapsed, crushing my fingers in its frame. I was rushed to A&E and to a plastic surgeon the next day.
Joy as a Promise
It’s easy to leave joy in the hands of circumstance—a nice thing that comes when life goes well. My experiment suggested otherwise—that I should intentionally seek it out. But an A&E visit can remind you how little control over life we have. Left to circumstance or planning alone, joy may still not be guaranteed.
One night, feeling dread at another 12-hour day coming, I wondered if those words in the hotel room weren’t just a directive but a promise. Jesus promised joy to those who followed him. The apostle Paul linked joy to experiencing God’s presence. I lifted my task-list in the air and whispered a prayer of trust. Joy returned. I returned to the Breath Prayer I wrote during lockdown, praying it each night. For me, going at the speed of joy has come to mean going at the speed of prayer.
And maybe that’s the greatest discovery of my experiment so far:
That joy isn’t just something to be sought, but a gift to be received.