In this Corner: Unbridled Joy. The Other: Bored Apathy.Posted: January 17, 2013
I really love children’s/young adult fantasy novels. I enjoy them a bit more than I enjoy “grown up” sci-fi and fantasy. The weirder thing, maybe, is I didn’t really get into these books until I was in college. During my freshman year, my soon-to-be mother in law got me the box set of the first 4 Harry Potter books, and my soon-to-be-husband got me the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. (Maybe there was some kind of literary campaign going on?)
And something that stuck with me from both books were the instances of joy and celebration. Even as a little kid, when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there was something interesting and appealing about the excitement about Aslan being “on the move.”
If you’ve only seen the movies, you missed out on this in the Harry Potter series: In the book, we follow Harry’s horrible Uncle Vernon around the day before Harry gets left on his doorstep. And as he goes about his day, he notices weird people in robes celebrating, congregating, whispering excitedly; for you non-wizarding-types, Wizards in Harry Potter’s world need to keep it on the down-low, but in this case, they cannot help themselves. Dursley accidentally bumps into one of these people, and the wizard can’t help but say: “Don’t be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!”
Dursley’s kind of a miserable, distinctly un-magical guy, and doesn’t fully appreciate this message until he finds out he is stuck raising his now-orphaned nephew. And even then, he isn’t very happy about it. At all.
As someone who believes in the resurrection and the life of Jesus Christ, I’d like to think, in literary terms, I’m like those Narnians who openly celebrated Christmas’ return, to winter’s disappearance, or one of those wizards who didn’t care they’d be noticed celebrating the demise of their mortal enemy.
But truth be told, I think I’m more often mistaken for a Dursley, too caught up in myself, my job, the inconveniences in my day, to see the cause for celebration.
It’s a sort of catch-phrase these days, but there’s this saying that asserts apathy is one of our biggest issues in today’s society. And while, yes, there are a lot of other issues in our world, I would agree. Caring is Not Cool. Caring is Inconvenient. So Joy and Excitement is definitely off the table.
So it would seem there is a tension for the 21st century Christian, (and, I would like to suggest, this tension has always existed). We cut ourselves into two: the Dursley side, and the Wizard side. The Bored, Miserable, and Apathetic Side and the Unbridled Joyful, Celebration side.
This is kind of a problem.
This world is broken, sure, and just because a person decides to follow Jesus doesn’ t mean life is suddenly easy-peasy. Believe me: I hate that “And now I am happy all the day!” hymn more than anyone. But happiness and joy are not the same thing, and we do not mourn like those who have no hope: God has healed, is healing, and will heal the world, and that is reason to celebrate. That is a reason to have hope.
In Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright writes on this in the context of Easter:
Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? … It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up. That always comes as a surprise. (256)
As Weston said on Sunday, we are often afraid to let our lights shine before men because we’re afraid, because the world is dark, because _______________. Or like the church in Ephesus, we’ve forgotten our first love. But none of those excuses let us off the hook: the darkness and brokenness is why we, who are made whole and empowered by the transformation of our lives through Jesus Christ, are called to go into the dark places of this world and shine God’s light there. And if we’ve forgotten our first love, and we’ve turned into Dursley, we can’t just stay mired in that miserable state; it’s not going to get better on its own.
At any rate, we’ve got work to do. The good news is God will answer our prayers and He will bless our efforts, and He is already with us. Instead of being like old Dursley, we need to open our eyes and remember we have reason to live lives of unbridled joy. We have something to share and celebrate!