“WOW! WHAT’S THAT?”!
…was my 2½ year old daughter Hannah’s instinctive response when she saw this honeysuckle picture on my laptop screen, with its intricate display of extraterrestrial tentacles.
Honeysuckle, Hastings Country Park, July 2014
If only we could retain that childlike incredulity at the world around us! No wonder Jesus said we must become like little children to see or enter the kingdom of heaven.
And if Jesus said we need to do that, then I guess we can!
I pray that my kids never lose that sense of wonder.
And that I too – and you, dear reader – would always be astounded at this universe we’re privileged to participate in.
“Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
Didn’t I come to lift your fiery vision bright
Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder in the flame”
Do you look at the world around you, awestruck?
When did beauty last drive you to tears?
What sights and sounds and sensations unleash the sense of aesthetic in your soul?
Are you bewildered at the existence of existence?
Does this universe fill you with questions of eternity and purpose?
Do the discoveries of science amaze you, at the same time as leaving you convinced that there will always be more to this universe than human reasoning can fathom?
And yet, isn’t it astonishing that the human mind can fathom our world at all?
One of the best and most beautiful nature photos I’ve ever taken.
A Brimstone butterfly, snapped quickly, opportunistically, a few years ago at New Wine, the Christian conference/festival in Somerset we enjoy every year.
Is it a coincidence that this moment of nature’s beauty was captured at an event where all eyes, all focus, is on the Creator and Saviour of all, where God is worshipped and adored? Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps there’s greater significance in the exact location it was taken: right at the edge of a car park, on the very outskirts of the event.
The wonder of God’s presence may be found at the centre of the festival celebration, in the midst of united worship…and yet also here on the outskirts, in the translucent wings of a butterfly.
In our society splendour is often associated with those who seem to be at the centre of everything. The celebrities. The limelight.
Yet another kind of magnificence is to be found on the outlying places of society, in the souls and faces of ordinary people.
Are you just as awed by the wise and wicked humour of that wizened lady in the queue at Tesco?
Do you spot the transcendence in people like the ragged guy I spoke to a few minutes ago in the street, who asked me if I could spare a pound?
Do they, too, fill you with wonder?
Do you see a reflection of the divine in their eyes?
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.
“The basic intuition of the psalms of praise, as one Old Testament scholar points out, is a sense of wonder, awe and admiration, characteristic of every authentic spiritual life. It is translated into an enthusiasm for Yahweh, his power, goodness and love.
These psalms are pure adoration, the Amen of the community in response to God’s revelation”.
Hannah, on her first day in this world
My Dad, in his agnostic/atheist days, would question his faithlessness at the sight of a newborn baby. How could he not believe in God when faced with such a mind-blowing miracle?
Sadly, he died a few years before Hannah was born. But he enjoyed his other grandchildren, who no doubt helped to re-awaken his faith in his Creator.
How easy it is, though, to marvel at the phenomenon of a small child and go all gooey at its cuteness. And how easy it is, sometimes, to see the beauty in others, but to miss it in ourselves!
You are a perfect miracle, a bespoke gift from the Creator to himself and to those who love you.
When did you last stand in wonder of yourself?
Take a look in the mirror. Forget society’s expectations and your own insecurities, and behold the divine designer construction that you are. Your body (yes, yours!), your own particular personality and dreams.
Stand in awe of yourself!
And how about the divine becoming human? How about the self-giving sacrifice of God’s son for us, again demonstrating how awesome we are to him – in spite of everything horrible about humanity?
No wonder Christians have such a sense of self-worth. No wonder we have such a sense of wonder.
OK, maybe you don’t feel this way or believe what I do. I respect that. But for me….I stand awestruck time after time at the changes he’s brought about in my life since the time I started to believe that Jesus really is the Way.
My heart beats to the same rhythm as countless others who live and breathe in awe of the one whose forgiveness and transformative power have shaped our lives.
And when I’m singing, whether at home, at church or in the car (yes, that’s me you’ve seen crooning away as I’ve been driving down the road), my voice joins with millions of others throughout the ages in adoration of our Saviour.
What have you stopped to take notice of recently?
What have you taken time to admire?
Have you paused recently to appreciate a colleague’s dedication to her work?
Or stopped to feel the breath ebb and flow in and out of your lungs?
Doing these things is good for our mental and emotional health. God has made it this way. Those who follow a reflective or meditative faith have known this for countless millennia. Now NHS bodies have incorporated this idea into their evidence-based Five Ways to Wellbeing. (Go on, Google it – it’s actually very good).
In recent years Van Gogh, Brennan Manning and Van Morrison have all played a part in unlocking my own internal sense of wonder; have helped me to appreciate the aesthetic, to stand in awe of my Creator and, I’m not ashamed to say, to cry in the presence of beauty.
In my busy, goal-oriented, task-centred life, it’s been a much-needed, revitalising awakening of my inner being.
Like a re-balancing of my soul.
Let me finish by leaving you with a masterpiece by Van the Man (Morrison, not Gogh). If, like me, you appreciate the poetry, music and spirituality of Van Morrison, then you’ll probably love this. I think it’s pretty wonder-full.
(The photos in this post are all mine, but not the video).