G.K. Chesterton wrote, ‘We are perishing for lack of wonder’. If you have ever lost your cell-phone, or credit card it’s easy to imagine how concerned and troubled you would be. Chesterton warns us about the danger of losing our sense of wonder. When was the last time your attention was arrested and your mind held for a moment in a sense of wonder? The passage of time will indicate whether your sense of wonder is still alive or has been suffocated by familiarity. If so something precious has been lost.
As children we are all mystic, born with an inherent sense of wonder for what strikes us as unfamiliar, or remarkable, or beautiful. As we grow up this leads to curiosity, amazement, admiration, fascination and astonishment. What begins in wonder gives birth to the desire to know more. D. H. Lawrence regarded wonder as our sixth sense and Socrates said ‘Wisdom begins in wonder’. It is an emotion that opens our awareness to what is around us; it becomes the basis of worship and forms an integral part of prayer. A sense of wonder may be as close as any of us get to a sense of God. A church steward I knew had a keen sense of wonder; whenever he went for a stroll with his wife and family he had with him what looked like a pen, but was actually a microscope. He would pick up the smallest flower and marvel at its colour, beauty and structure. For him there was something marvelous in even the smallest thing.
Perhaps Eve’s curiosity first began with a sense of wonder as she looked at the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Its colour, size and shape was attractive, did she then wonder what the taste would be? While Moses was engaged in his work something unusual caught his attention. Intrigued by this unfamiliar sight his sense of wonder drew him close enough to investigate and to the astonishing discovery he was standing on holy ground. The Book of Psalms is punctuated repeatedly with a sense of wonder. When the psalmist gazed at the heavens (8:4), when he remembered God’s marvelous deeds (9:1), he saw the earth as filled with wonders (65:8) the emotion of wonder swept over him and filled him with gratitude for all God had done (103), his eyes were opened to the wonders of God’s word (119), and when he looked at himself he realized he was fearfully and wonderfully made (139). The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, knew exactly what he meant and wrote “When you look inside yourself you see the universe and all its stars in infinity”, the result is “an infinite mystery within yourself as great as the one without”.
Job had a deep sense of wonder. He was puzzled. He asked why had he been born (10:19), where does wisdom come from (28:20) what were God’s actions in the heavens and in his life…and came to the conclusion “I speak of things too wonderful for me to know” (42:3). What sense of wonder raced through the mind of Mary at the Annunciation and as the visitors from adjoining field and far country came to see her child.
Jesus observed the dough rising, he watched the sparrow, he saw the changing colour in the sky, looking at the wild flowers he said “Consider the lilies of the field”. Emily Dickson said that was the only commandment she never broke. When Paul ‘considered’ Jesus he was overwhelmed with wonder, ‘When we look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank, after rank of angels – everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together up to this moment.’ (Col.1:15-18) MSG. His sense of wonder stretched his vocabulary to the limit. Is ours when we think of Jesus?
Sam Keen says ‘knead the visions of the sacred into the dough of everyday life’. I believe wonder became the springboard for my own creative impulse; it began with the excitement of Christmas morning, the carpet of blue bells beneath the canopy of beech trees, the sight of snow silently falling in the lamp light, the discovery of a bird’s nest. Wonder led to curiosity, to creativity and eventually to spiritual yearning. ‘The mysterious is not only the most beautiful experience we can have, but also the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and science’, so wrote Einstein whose sense of wonder never faded.
If you are reading this you are alive – stop and wonder about that! The world is alive with wonderful surprises. Look deeply. Maintain a vibrant sense of wonder, or as they say “Wake up and smell the coffee!”