Reflections

Feb 12, 2018

SURPRISED BY JOY


Dancing behind the freshly greened hedgerows, the daffodils are spreading along our gardens with a promise of more to follow. Even whilst snow showers threaten on the horizon, the brave cherry blossom, that sweet harbinger of springtime, turns its pink fragile petals towards the awakening sun and challenges it to burn brighter, stronger, warmer. Undaunted by late frosts that devastate fruit orchards, it blushes in defiance and takes its stance against the elements.

Now the mating calls of song birds cheer us on to plan for summer activities just as they too are preparing sturdy nests for a full brood of fledglings.

There is something so resilient, so reassuringly unsuppressible about the natural world despite our wasteful plundering of resources and careless greed or neglect. In the midst of war and destruction, the tiny seeds of wandering plant life gamble their existence on the smallest patch of dust and brighten the gray shattered ruins of our making. In the bleak stone yard of a concentration camp, one small flower struggled through a crack and surprised the inmates with hope and joy.

A recent BBC series has been turning its focus on the camera crews behind our superb wildlife documentaries. In temperatures ranging from freezing cold to burning heat, in risk to life and limb, encountering dangers from terrain and predators, they sit out the long hours for a few moments of captured drama. When photographer Gordon opened his laptop to check the recorded movements of any remaining tigers still surviving in the wild, he glimpsed the majestic beauty of a striped creature furtively crossing the lens of a hidden camera. In shock, delight and relief, he put hands over face and said, “Oh God! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” It was a moment of overwhelming joy.

If you have managed to watch any of ‘The Life of a Zoo’ series, you will have noticed that same exhilaration and joy amongst the keepers when new baby animals make their appearance, bringing hope for the preservation of their species, their dedication brings rich rewards. It is a timely reminder that in the wisdom of the Book of Genesis, we read of the commission given to the man Adam by his Creator, to take responsibility for the living world of seas, plants and creatures. For each of us it is a commission from which there is no retirement. The charge endures while life remains, and we pass it on to every generation fuelled by the enthusiasm stimulated by conservation successes.

Chris Packham, recognized for his seasonal wildlife programmes, has published a memoire called ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’. It is a beautifully detailed observation of the myriad life forms all around us if only we had eyes to see and hearts to appreciate it. This immersion into the energy of the throbbing organism that binds us all in an extraordinary eco-system, is the antidote to the stressed-out pace of work for gain. Our serendipity times get swallowed up in a frantic rush to meet targets, deadlines, profit margins.

The distress of Job is recorded at great length in the book of his name. He frets over his own misfortunes, ill health, fall from status and tragic family losses. He berates the malpractice of his fellow beings and despairs at society’s malaise. Such moments of angst reach each of us too when we face the reality of an alarming prognosis, a financial downturn or maybe the loss of someone on whom we depend.

In answer to Job’s hopeless despair, his Creator God takes him in spirit back to a time when the glorious earth was formed, when “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.” Can redeeming grace forgive such spoiling of the masterpiece, such misery and destruction?

Sovereign peace flooded Job’s soul as he was given glimpses of the enduring faithfulness and mighty power of God who has all wisdom and creative resources. If we can walk behind Job in grace, we will not only fulfil our purpose, discharge our duty, and inform our young, but we too may be constantly surprised by joy and be able to say with heartfelt conviction, “My God, how great Thou art!”

                                                                                                        Iris Niven

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