Surprised, again, by joy

By Greg Jones

Joy can come as a surprise. In fact, I think it usually does. Joy can come upon you, just as the wind blows when and where it will.

Wordsworth wrote a poem once, perhaps you know it:

Surprised by joy — impatient as the Wind

I turned to share the transport — Oh! with whom

But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,

That spot which no vicissitude can find?

Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind —

But how could I forget thee? Through what power,

Even for the least division of an hour,

Have I been so beguiled as to be blind

To my most grievous loss? — That thought’s return

Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,

Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,

Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;

That neither present time, nor years unborn

Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

The poem is about bittersweet joy and its frequent companion: A Flustering Confusion. Wordsworth composed the piece in the context of having lost a child. He experienced a happy moment, then of a sudden realized that he had forgotten his loss and grief, and felt regret about it.

Yes, joy can come as quite a surprise, especially in the midst of grief, and sorrow and sadness.

Now, I am not by nature morose. But I have my glum moments. Don’t you? And why wouldn’t we? For by now we have lost people. We have lost children. We have lost parents. We have lost friends.

Yes, we are likely all walking around with some grief. We are all likely observing some kind of living mourning. No? But…. sometimes we are tickled by life …… and sometimes joy gets through, and we can still be surprised, and flustered — with that impatiently blown confusion of regret and rejoicing.

I believe this in some way explains how they felt, when though in mourning, and still very confused by reports of empty tombs, angels and resurrection appearance, Jesus suddenly and impatiently appears to the eleven, raised by the power of God. As the story goes, they were surprised, flustered, and wondering what this was all about.

Now, I have believed in Jesus for many years. I believe in the Resurrection, and I believe it has been shown to me — in a lifetime of Easter glimpses: a sip of communion wine, an answered prayer, a mystic sensation. These many small moments of surprise have built up my faith. But, friends, if I were to see Jesus the way the disciples did in the eating of fish that time: I would be very, very, very surprised. Yet, I would welcome it — and indeed, I am expecting it. I am expecting to see the raised Lord in His fullness.

If you have ever been surprised by joy — and confused and flustered by it — then you can relate to how the disciples felt when Jesus came to them in fullness. If you have not yet experienced something of Christ’s resurrection, expect it to come like an impatient wind — to surprise you, and stir you up.

Expect him to come my friends. Jesus, He our God of love, will pierce all our sorrows and mourning, and peace will finally be with us.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones (‘Greg’) is rector of St. Michael’s in Raleigh, N.C. and the bass player in indie-rock band The Balsa Gliders — whose fourth studio release is available on iTunes. He blogs at Anglican Centrist.

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