What has overwhelmed you with joy? The births of my children and grandchild overwhelmed me with joy, as have many moments in my children’s lives when good things came their way. Musical joy has overwhelmed me in concert halls and churches. I can count on being overwhelmed with joy at some point during the spring migration of the Sandhill cranes every year, often at the moment around sunrise when thousands of crane leave the Platte River. Similarly, spring flowers and autumn leaves have the power to overwhelm me with joy, as do the first beautiful snowfall of the year, a meadowlark singing in the spring, and the stars on a clear night in rural Nebraska.
I wrote at Epiphany last year (Epiphany: Leaving by a Different Road) about the need for us in the Church to learn from the wise men who went back to their own country “by another road” and change our course on climate change. The church for the most part has treated environmental stewardship in general and climate change in particular as a sort of side issue, which says to me that there is "a wide gap between what we know at some level in our heads and what has seeped in deeply enough to really change our direction". That post concluded by asking what that different road looks like for us:
What does that different road look like for us? I suspect we may not know until we commit ourselves to taking it. We may need to make a new road by walking, by being intentional about remembering climate change and remembering the reality of today’s world whenever and wherever we do the work of the church. The old roads lead us back to the expediency of the status quo, and that is killing us.A year later, I’m even more convinced that we find our way home to a more stable climate once we take our eyes off the old road and commit ourselves to the task of creating a new way to respond to the needs of the world in this new world of climate instability.
We notice what is happening around us, using all of our senses. We let it seep into our minds and hearts. We pay attention to the signs that point the way, and we open our imaginations to help us piece together those signs so the way becomes clearer. We do the work of deep discernment, and when we discern the way — or at least the first few steps of the way — we start moving.
All of this takes a sturdy spiritual grounding. Staying connected to Jesus, we are overwhelmed with a spiritual joy that can support us through the work ahead. Along with that crucial spiritual grounding in Christ, if we build on that Christian joy and remain open to being overwhelmed with joy through the people around us, the art we create, and the wonders of God’s creation, we will be energized to head down whatever road will help to sustain us and other living things because we are passionate about whatever overwhelms us with joy.
The wisdom of the wise men wasn’t all about their ability to notice the signs that led them to the new King and then told them to go back by a different road. The wisdom of the wise men was also about their keeping their hearts open to being overwhelmed by joy. Joy will get us a lot farther down the road than fear will, and joy will certainly make the journey easier for us all.