I am mostly an enthusiastic person. I am enthusiastic about the Gospel message and about the place of the local church. I have good reasons to be this way, and am thankful that it is so. My parents planted this in me many years ago. God continues to nurture enthusiasm in my soul.
Enthusiasm is a good “Methodist” word. Wesley’s followers were often called “enthusiasts” before they were called “Methodists.” And with good reason.
But maybe there is an even more descriptive word for the followers of Jesus.
Elaine and I have known the joy of watching three grandchildren begin their life journey next door to us at our Shared Acres home “in the country.” Each, in turn, has shown us something beyond enthusiasm.
I would characterize each one in their earliest years as “exuberant.” I know I am biased (and entitled to be so), but each one has demonstrated and epitomized exuberance in his or her own way!
In different but consistent ways, they have fit the primary definition of the word: “effusive and almost uninhibited enthusiasm.” They smile regularly. They laugh often and deeply. They have danced to television music with uninhibited joy. Often, they set up furniture and large balls for exercise, cartwheels and such.
In another totally different model for all of this, Jimmy Fallon and now Stephen Colbert show this same style in late night TV. (Oh, I don’t stay up that late. We Ti-Vo them and watch the next day!) They come on the set every night joyfully. They celebrate the presence of the nightly audience. The clap and dance and sing without reservation. They are a joy to watch, especially in the early 60-90 seconds of each show. In a word, they are “exuberant.”
I would personally like to shift my primary character from “enthusiasm” to “exuberance” in my Christian walk. And I’d like to take all of you with me! An effusive spirit can be contagious.
A good and gracious God deserves our exuberant praise. I would like to see the worship service in every local church begin with mostly exuberant leadership. As one local church clergy colleague begins almost every week, “God is good; all the time. All the time; God is good.” We can be exuberantly thankful to be alive and to be together in a time of corporate worship.
Excellence honors Jesus. Enthusiasm is a precious gift not to be taken lightly. But exuberance is a mainstay of a vital faith—even in times of upheaval and turmoil.
Thank you, grandchildren, for giving me a living parable of what exuberance might look like. Thank you late night TV hosts for another consistent demonstration of this important trait. Thank you Christian friends and many local churches for a taste of God’s extraordinary work among us in a complex and sometimes confusing time.