WE now have a Romanian immigrant living with us. Not that she will trouble Government statistics because she is a four-legged, Heinz 57 variety, rescue bitch.
Dogs are being culled on the streets of Romania and a charity (Homeward Bound UK) is bringing as many dogs to this country as it can find homes for.
Hence our new member of the family. It has been quite an experience. Early on Tia chewed through my computer cable and then the TV cable and she gets distracted when let off the lead. Nevertheless this clumsy, hairy mongrel is bringing us much joy.
Joy is a word I associate with Tia. Her boundless delight in galloping through puddles and running madly round in circles, the sheer unadulterated enthusiasm with which she greets us, are evidence of a spontaneous, infectious joy.
Joy is an elusive emotion. Pleasure can be organised. You can arrange to do things which please you. Sometimes these bring joy but there is no guarantee of that – as any Oxford United fan like myself will tell you.
Happiness is somehow more superficial than joy, and very dependent on our circumstances. Contentment has more to do with the will. Joy is deeper and cannot be drummed up. It suddenly appears and catches us unawares. It can even well up when life is not going well and take us by surprise.
CS Lewis entitled his autobiography Surprised by Joy. He tells how from an early age he had inklings about and fleeting experiences of joy and how he sought to find its source.
He searched for years and finally found what he was looking for when, on a journey to Whipsnade Zoo, he finally came to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.
Joy does often come as a by-product of serving and helping others, as those bringing these dogs back from Romania I am sure find. Joy can be brought to us by the action of others, as we find with Tia. But for many the deepest and most lasting joy comes from knowing, loving and following God.