I got a package in the mail today. From Amazon. And while that's always exciting, it is particularly so this time around. This fresh stack of paper and ink represents the wisdom I'm about to mine for the next big project on my mind. This is my Christmas research.
I may be further ahead than I've ever been before.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I usually have to skip this phase altogether. The time to soak in an idea, to absorb it and see how it eventually flows out of me is a luxury I'm just not used to. Usually I have a moment (many moments) of panic in mid-fall, and when the feeble light of an idea suddenly peeks over the horizon I simply run—and I do mean run—toward it fast as I can.
No time to think. Just act.
But finding this idea was like tripping over something on a path in that same feeble morning light. And you look back and see a gnarled root snaking it's way across the dirt. Your eyes follow the root to the base of a trunk. Follow the trunk as it leans its way into the air. And as the light grows you see the immensity of the tree with it's canopy now glowing green above you, silent, powerful and beautiful. Bit by bit you get the full picture.
I first tripped over the root a week before Christmas last year when a friend mentioned the word...
And like a match lighting—a familiar scrape and hiss, a tiny crackle and the smell of sulfur—I felt the first sparks of inspiration. Wonder. The word alone lifts our eyes from our shuffling feet and causes us to scan the skies for something bigger.
But in the midst of planning and rehearsals for the story we were already telling, I didn't have the time to think about wonder.
But then it came up again just before Easter. I tried this research thing back then. I got all of a chapter and a half into one book. Not great. But that chapter and a half was a good seed.
I was reading Living the Resurrection by Eugene Peterson; in it he makes the case that without wonder we cannot truly comprehend Christ's death and resurrection. He says that without wonder we cannot be enough in awe of Jesus to compel us to become like Jesus saying that, "Without wonder, we approach spiritual formation as a self-help project."
How true. How very, very true.
He goes on to say:
Wonder is natural and spontaneous to all of us. When we were children, we were in a constant state of wonder. The world was new, tumbling in on us in profusion. We staggered through each day fondling, looking, tasting. Words were wondrous. Running was wondrous. Touch, taste, sound were all wonders. We lived in a world of wonders.
But gradually the sense of wonder gets squeezed out of us.
I'm sure this feels familiar. I know it does to me. Peterson actually begins the passage with this:
We do not live in a world that promotes and encourages wonder.
This is where the Church comes in. No matter how wise, or learned, or versed we become, we cannot help but be filled with wonder every time we truly engage with the God we serve. We serve a wonder-ful God. We should, nay, must promote and encourage wonder.
And there is no better vehicle for this, in my mind, than the arts.
And there is no better time. Christmas—when men and women are already inclined to reverse into boys and girls—is the perfect time for the Church to aspire to inspiring wonder.
But first, I know that I need to be filled with wonder. I must experience the slack-jawed, wide-eyed sense of awe. I need to expand my mind and my heart and find myself in wonder of God. That's where this stack of books comes in.