There are times when you just have to stop and say…WOW!
But those truly awe inspiring moments are few and far between. They’re those moments when your heart skips a beat, your soul sings and your spirits lift. They’re the moments that lift you out of the mundane, if only for a second, and into something…other. They’re the moments that make life come alive!
When I’m walking, it’s those moments I want to experience.
Yes, I walk for various reasons. I love the solitude, the challenge and the sense of escape. But most of all, what I long to experience on any walk is that moment when everything clicks into place and I say “Yes! This was worth it”.
In each case, the sheer beauty of what was in front of me took my breath away, and I just wanted to stop the world and preserve that moment for as long as I could.
That is wonder. That is why I walk.
But wonder doesn’t just happen when you’re walking. Wonder is what you feel the moment you see that girl, the one who makes all the other women seem ordinary in comparison. It’s the feeling you get when you hold your children for the first time, when you hear a piece of music that penetrates to your very soul.
Artists in trying to capture that moment call it the Sublime, a feeling of “greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation… whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic”.
Wonder is what makes life worth living.
It’s a universal feeling that we all share, albeit that with each person it will be brought on by different things and will provoke different responses. Universal yet unique, wonder pervades all races, ages and personality types.
But where does this sense of wonder come from? Is it a facet of evolutionary development, that we are all hardwired to react to certain stimuli in certain ways? It’s possible I suppose, but if that’s all it is then what is its purpose? What advantage does it give us? At what point did hominids look up at the sun and think “dat pritty, me make big yellow circle on cave wall”?
As it turns out, the best guess for when is about 40,000 years ago, what’s missing still is the why? I think I can make a suggestion on that one though.
Last Sunday in church, we looked at Psalm 8 and the sense of wonder that pervades it. King David is caught up with the fact that God has “set [His] glory in the heavens…the work of [His] fingers, the moon and the stars, which [He has] set in place”. But he doesn’t finish there. In looking at the majesty of the universe, he is forced to compare it to himself and he’s not alone in that response either.
Neil Armstrong, speaking of viewing Earth from the surface of the Moon once said:
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small”
King David, in a similar vein says,
“What is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him”
In other words, “as the one who made all the vast expanse of the heavens, why would you care about me? What do I matter when compared to all of this?”
He doesn’t have the answer. He concludes by saying,
“Yahweh, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth”
Wonder creates worship, and again that is a universal response, though not necessarily aimed at God. C.S. Lewis once famously noted that,
“The world rings with praise. Lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game, praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. I had not noticed either that just as men praise spontaneously what they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praise. Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t that glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent? I think we delight to praise what we enjoy, because the praise not merely expresses, but completes the enjoyment”
Worship as a response to wonder is what people do, and I would suggest that this is because we are designed that way. We are made to see the wonder of creation and to turn in worship to the One who created it. The greater wonder though is that this is not merely a one way street.
God does not simply sit back and bask in the pre-ordained praises of his people. Instead he is the one who “bends down to listen” to us (Psalm 116:2), the one who “will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17).
God in love reaches down to save his children. In response, we praise and delight in God.
In response to our praise, God delights in us and so it carries on.
The early church used to talk about the dance of God, a way of expressing His triune nature as one God in three distinct persons. Tim Keller explains,
“Each of the divine persons centres upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love…We were made to join in the dance if we will centre our lives on him, serving him not out of self-interest, but just for the sake of who he is, for the sake of his beauty and glory, we will enter the dance and share in the joy and love he lives in. We were made to centre our lives upon him, to make the purpose and passion of our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling him”
Wonder is the foretaste of the life to come. It begs us to consider that which is beyond and above us. It draws us into worship. It brings us to God. So whatever it is that causes you to wonder, seek it out and build it into your life. In doing that, you’ll not only be taking a step closer to a life more fully lived, but more importantly, a life spent in the presence of the one for and with whom we were made to live. That has to be worth striving for.
This article was originally posted at Colin’s blog, The Humble Walker. Used with permission.
Image: Hiking by Trevor Manternach, used under CC