On Wonder, On Joy

I’ve been thinking about wonder – how it happens, what it does...

Driving back to Portland on Monday from Manzanita, winding along a woodsy coastal highway, I glimpsed through the trees a spectacular view: an expanse of ocean, sunlight breaking through grey sky to bounce across the water, sharp rays of light shooting down through the clouds. These were the kind of light beams I think of as “the Glory.” The Glory from those Children's Bible type pictures of Jesus and other "heroes," where light directs our attention to something important.

Alone in the car, a sound burst out of me, something like, “Ha!” Then, “Oh, my God! Are you kidding me?”

No, God is not kidding. That much wonder really exists and when it takes us by surprise – as wonder, to do its job, must – it feels miraculous. It feels like a bright ping of joy.

This joy is a moment, a shockwave through the regular mist of mundanity, or, in this particular moment in time, through the tornado of worry about the state of our world. For a while as I drove on, I felt a little guilty. With so many troubling things going on around me, around all of us, how do I take this in too? This awe. How does it balance together?

(It’s tricky, the ingrained this vs. that mindset.)

As I thought, this morning, about writing this little piece for you, I knew I’d tell you about that moment in the drive, the laugh of joy bursting out; I knew I’d write about the power of wonder. But why would it matter? How could I even justify celebrating my one tiny moment in the midst of all the struggles, incivilities, and fear swirling through the lives of God’s people (and by that, I mean all people)?

And this scripture-song bubbled up, another relic from children’s church: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I remember it as a silly sing-along song (and if you choose to click that link, you'll see why), but looking at the context of Nehemiah 8:10, the people to whom this line was addressed were not in a silly mood; they were weeping and mourning. Those words were a reminder: “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

That moment on the road mattered. All of our, “Oh, my God! Are you kidding me?” moments do. Because without them, we lag; without them, we get weak, we get tired of trying to stand up, trying to stay strong. The moments of experiencing God’s wonder that burst into joy – we need them because they are our strength.

Here’s to a summer of wonder, and to appreciating the moments of joy.


This post was written for inclusion in the July 2018 Columbia District Newsletter for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church.