Sunday, November 15, 2015

Awakening Wonder In An Overwhelmed World

When Benjamin was younger, we went with some of our friends to South Mountain State Park. As we hiked the trail, the kids began to whine and complain about the ever-sloping trail. All of the parents kept encouraging them to keep going so that they could see the magnificent waterfalls. We promised them that it would be well worth the physical exertion, but they weren't buying it. Their whining and complaining began to effect our mood and we went from encouraging them to keep going to snapping for them to just be quiet and "suck it up." (Yeah, we are clearly not Caillou's parents). The joy of being together began to fade and we started to wonder why we even began this trek up the mountain. Then, as we came around a bend in the trail, we came upon hundreds of butterflies dancing about in beams of light around large flowering bushes next to a small stream. Instantly, all of us gasped in wonder. We just stood there in amazement at the beauty of this moment. 

How many of us get this way in our daily lives?

Where is our sense of wonder in this age of distraction?

Psalm 145:5 says, "Oh the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate." But do we meditate on the wonder?  

Do we do as Job 37:14 states, "Listen to this . . . stop and consider God's wonders?"

I know in my own life I get too caught up in other things and lose sight of the wonder. In scriptures, the word wonder translates from the word "mopheth," which means "a splendid or conspicious work, a miracle" or from "teras," which translates into "marvel." We tend to reserve these words for grander things.

Sure, it's easier to have that sense of wonder when we see hundreds of butterflies, or waterfalls, or mountains, or oceans, but what about when we are in dead-stop traffic during our morning commute? Or when we are having to clean the house and it seems like the laundry basket magically creates piles and piles of dirty clothes that need to be washed even though we are sure we had already done it this week?  It's easier to have that sense of wonder when a baby is born than when the baby is wailing in the middle of the night and we are losing sleep. Or when that child decides to throw a tantrum in Target. 

Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote that, "The perception of glory is a rare occurence in our lives. We fail to wonder, we fail to respond to the presence. Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder."

It is too easy to lose the wonder in the monotony of our daily life with all of its committments with work and children and responsibilities. We get so focused on our work that we lose site of the wonder. And wonder is the beginning of faith. Like a child reading a book, we should be excitedly asking, "What happens next?" 

God tells us in Isaiah 43:19, "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

That verse tells us that God is asking, "Don't you see it? Aren't you aware of what I am doing?" He asks so that we can, like children, delightedly ask Him if we can join in this "new thing" like children do when they see someone making bubbles or playing a game outside. I remember taking Benjamin, Cava, and a couple of their friends to a park. We started playing "Red Light, Green Light" and the kids were having a blast. This drew other kids to us and they asked if they could join in. We should, first, be like those kids and approach God with, "Can I play too?" and then we should be drawing others to him with the same desire to be a part of our play.

One of my favorite writers, G. K. Chesterton said in his book Tremendous Trifles, "The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."

The world is so full of distractions meant to entertain us but they don't fill us with real wonder. As Chesterton so aptly says, we can get so caught up in those things which will never satisfy us, never meet our needs, that we end up starving from "want of wonder" that is in God.

The more we know of God, the more we trust in God, the more we say "Yes" to God, the deeper the sense of wonder fills us. God is so much bigger than we ever imagined or could imagine. When we said "Yes" to adoption, we never dreamed that one small act of obedience would open our hearts to the world and all of the opportunities to create in us a holy curiosity, an awakening to childlike wonder because such is the kingdom of God. When we let go of our dreams, God gave us new ones. Grander ones that were greater than any we had imagined on our own. It has awakened in us a new sense of appreciation and awakening to the things of God.

Jesus put a child among his followers and told them, "Truly, I tell you. Unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3).


Jesus is unquestioningly telling us to become like little children to even enter the kingdomm of heaven.


Because children don't come with their doubts but with their sense of wide-eyed wonder. Jesus wants us to have that child-like heart of acceptance and belief.  And to look at God as a Father who will take care of us and meet our daily needs as a loving parent will. Too many adults are so filled with doubts and concerns and worries. We are not children who are content, joyful, playful, and full of abandonment. That's why Jesus is telling us to become as a little child. It is the faith of a child that can move mountains. I like what Rich Mullins once said, "A faith that moves mountains is a faith that expands horizons, it does not bring us into a smaller world full of easy answers, but into a larger one where there is room for wonder."

That is why wonder is defined as "a feeling of surprise mingled by admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable."

How true that is. When we allow ourselves to be awakened to wonder, we allow ourselves in on something beautifully unexpected. God is inviting us into that.

I am learning that the more I say "Yes" to the things of God and abandon myself to them, the more I am filled with a sense of wonder at not only how God works in this world, but that He allows me to be a part of it. He doesn't need me to do what He wants accomplished, but He offers me the opportunity. I think we too often approach His will as if it were another chore or another thing to put on our to-do check-list than the gift it really is. It's not about achievement, it's about awakening.

Too often we are afraid to say "Yes" to the will of God because we are afraid of what He is going to ask us to do. What we don't realize is God is not always calling you to do something, He often is simply calling you to love someone. When we were called to adopt Cava, we did not realize the pure joy that would come from this act of love. And if we had not stepped out in faith, we would have never known it.

Eugene Peterson said, "Wonder can't be packaged, and it can't be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagment."

To be filled with wonder means we have to stop in the midst of our hectic, busy lives and just be present, to be engaged with the God of the universe by whom all were created. In Him came the wonder of creation and the wonder of resurrection. Both of those mighty acts are gifts of love to us. He wants us to join in them with Him.

God does not want us to be overwhelmed by our responsibilities but overwhelmed by Him. By His love, by His mercy, and by His grace. His burden is light. When we stop and say "Yes" to Him, we will wonder why it took us so long to do it.

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