wonder

His Own Wonder

At the shore he is shirtless and wild. He makes “snow bunnies” from wet sand stacked up in his hand. He screams and jumps and throws the lumps of mud into the sea just to see what they do. Watching the water wedge the sand between his toes and then suck it out again to sea—he knows not a self-conscious thought in his world.

At the tide pools he climbs and clambers. He pokes at things both slimy and grimy, shouting “Sea creature!” each time he spies features that he’s not yet seen. I look and he is calf-deep in a pool of cool water. His movements are making the sea grass wave, and his eyes shine brave.

The ripples calm to reflect his own wonder right back at him. And he pauses. I wonder what the cause is. His life is a discovery, and for me a recovery of discovery— of the wonder around us, a search for the wonder that abounds in us. An awe for the wonder of One who spun wonder into being.

So as he stands still, sparkling light from the skies glances off the surface and shines in his eyes. Light mingles with the mind behind them to become surprise and delight erupting in bright laughter, like light turned to sound— for everyone around— sparkling laughter.

Process

Books.jpg

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...

Wonder.

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.

Conjurers of Spells

Art—or at least, good art, or at least, inspired art—makes the mundane things of life fascinating. And more than anything in life, I think it’s that particular ability of art that fills me with wonderment and merriment. Because suddenly, all around us the world swells to enormous proportions as each ignoble thing becomes ripe with profundity and beauty and every disregarded “it” becomes a subject worthy of meditation and contemplation and delectation. That’s magic.

And artists are the magicians because all artists can use their art to turn the mundane into magic.

But it’s not really magic. No, not really.

I think that what I call “magic” is really an opening up of one’s ability to see things as God sees them. And that feels like magic, because it is so…other…than us. So contrary to us.

The Pace of Wonder

We all lament the pace of our lives. Despite our best efforts to slow down it seems we often crowd so much into our lives that we cannot settle, we cannot enjoy, we cannot slow, and we certainly cannot stop. Whenever my son, Finnden, is trying to pretend he is not getting sleepy he overcompensates by rushing from one thing to the next. He turns into a bit of a maniac, bouncing about endlessly, shifting from one leg to the the other, shouting for no discernible reason, and generally being terribly disobedient. Sometimes I feel like that manic child.

But today I was fascinated to watch Finnden playing with his wooden train set. I helped him lay a track that coursed through the barren wheat-field of our living room carpet, and as soon as I connected the last piece I was ready to set a battery-operated train engine on it, press the button, and watch it go a few rounds.

But not Finn.

Finnden wanted to push the train. Forget the buttons or the speed. He wanted to slowly connect other cars to the engine and fill them with their cargo. He wanted to painstakingly push the lumbering train around the track, head lying low the ground, watching every slow turn of the engine’s wheels from eye level.

When he came to the windmill he wanted to spin it. When he came to the mountain, he slowly chugged up its slope and down the other. When he came to the crossing, he pressed buttons and listened to the noises and opened and closed the gates again and again.

I watched in amazement as it took him a full half hour before his little “choo-choo” had made it all the way around the little track. Such concentration, such deliberation, such wonder and enjoyment.

Certainly, we all need to get better at learning the things we should shoulder and the things we should refuse. But if we’ve mastered the word “no” and have not learned to slacken our pace a little…well…

There will always be things that compete for our attention. There will always be ideas or engagements or projects to which we cannot say no. There will always be deadlines and work to do. But when we discover wonder it is as though time stops even when it hasn’t. When we are captivated by what we have in front of us and around us—peering into things from eye level, attending to the details, enjoying the process—we will suddenly find that our business can become quite endurable, even enjoyable, like a child at play. Perhaps the only way to slow down is not to find more time but to find more wonder, to find more play, to find more enjoyment in the things we encounter along our way.