In 1757 the young Irishman Edmund Burke published the obesely titled, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke explored why humans long for moments that both terrify and awe us like riding a raft through a rushing cataract, standing on the edge of a dangerous cliff, or skydiving from 10,000 feet. He called these moments as experiencing the ‘sublime.’ You come face to face with God and know you will live.
Our COVID times have realigned our culture back to the fragility of life and an appreciation for everyday moments like gathering with a group of friends, traveling where we long to go, and spending time with family. To re-enter the world of travel is now a sublime experience.
Recently, we gathered with our Wonder Voyage Guides and asked them what sublime moments of wonder they witnessed during our thirty-five voyages this summer.
For the majority of groups traveling this summer, their trip was the first time they had gathered since March 2020. Longing for community produced a precious vulnerability and openness to their fellow travelers and to the love of God. Our pass the candle gatherings took on a new meaning as people were free to be real, to be honest, and to express words often unsaid. Teams returned home restored as a community.
COVID taught us that we don’t have the control over our worlds that we thought we did. We’ve all learned to pivot. This flexibility allowed for a wider variety of adventure, cultural immersion, and spiritual exploration. This summer, our teams were able to transcend their agendas when better opportunities manifested.
When flexibility is baked into a group’s DNA, spontaneity becomes inevitable. As agendas became a thing of the past, teams happily changed course as the Spirit moved. There was a visible appreciation amongst the groups for being together in a new place, with people they loved, doing new things never considered, and asking God to meet them in unplanned moments of wonder.
Sometimes the Spirit meets us in unplanned and unexpected ways. We plan our trips in detail, but sublime moments of wonder that define our voyages and transform the participants are so beyond us that we are left in awe. After we lead trips, our Guides love to share how God used us to be doorkeepers of wonder.
Vulnerability, flexibility, spontaneity, and openness to wonder are values our Guides have sewn on their voyages for years. This summer, unlike any over the last 22 years, our participants arrived with those gifts already in their hearts. We witnessed one of the great truths of the Gospel, that even during the pain of this horrible pandemic, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 MEV) The summer was, in a word, sublime.
After a decade working in parish youth ministry Shawn started Wonder Voyage Missions. Over the last 15 years, WVM has led thousands of pilgrims to over forty countries. Shawn is a storyteller and an award winning filmmaker. He is an author who brings the gift of engaging narrative to our journeys. Shawn is dedicated to creating voyages that give people abundant opportunities to encounter God.