Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Symphony of Joy

One day recently I found myself sitting on a little cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was a bright morning, and the sky and sea were all dressed in blue. I put on a bit of music to enhance the experience, and it seemed to blend in with all the other players in this marvelous symphonic burst of glory. I realized partway through that God Himself was the conductor, and He was having a grand old time bringing the music out of all He had made.

As the cymbals crashed, the waves did too, as if on cue, against the rugged rocks off shore, sending up glorious sprays of white. As the melodies wove their way through the music, the Lord would point here to a soaring sea bird, there to a dancing butterfly, there again to waving sea oats, then out to the vast expanse of the foaming, sparkling deep. All was on key, all kept perfect time. I leaned back and looked into the sky and noticed with satisfaction that He even placed a crescent moon at twelve o’clock high. As I later began to listen solely to the music of nature—the distinctive gull-cries, the soothing susurrations of the breeze in the tall grasses, and the rhythmic washing of waves on soft sand, finally I got it: all creation is meant to sing.

There’s something important that I think many of us miss, caught up as we often are in daily responsibilities and anxieties. God has created the world and filled it with irrepressible life; He has built into it a profound undercurrent of joy—his joy—“a torrent of beautiful vigor flowing from a deep source and irrigating all that moves or feels” (R.H. Benson). And He expects us to discover it. There are moments when that reality opens up to us, when it all fits together, when we become part of the cosmic dance, the joy of being, and we delight in the wonderful works of God’s hands. His joy becomes ours.

It is true that we still have to work and struggle with the issues of war and peace, wealth and poverty, truth and falsehood, sin and virtue. But we have to step back sometimes and ask ourselves: why are we doing this? Is it simply because we feel compelled to right all the wrongs in the world? Or is it rather because we have to remove the scales from human eyes, drain out the poisons of body and soul, so that God’s symphony of joy can be heard—and felt in the depths of the soul—and we can all start being what He has created us to be?

Once we have learned to preserve a sense of joy (which flows in and out of gratitude, hope, and inner stillness), then we will also learn how to labor and even suffer fruitfully for the Kingdom of God. But if we can’t hear the music of sea and sky, of flowered hillsides and rugged cliffs, of starry nights and summer rains—and recognize Who it is that made them all, in and for joy—then we will at best be those “sour-faced saints” from whom St Teresa prayed for deliverance, and at worst either burnt-out activists or depressed disciples who have lost all courage to live.

The music doesn’t cease even for a moment. It’s like the angelic worship we read about in Revelation. Take some time to listen, to connect with the underground River of Life and Joy that flows through all creation—and through your own inner depths as well, for the great Conductor wants to create a symphony of joy in your soul as well as in the external creation. Discover it, immerse yourself in it, and experience a fresh renewal of your relationship with the Lord who loves you. Realize that all creation is singing his glory—and that you’ve got the music in you.