By Pastor Brent McDougal
Walking along the beach this summer I happened along a mother and two children. The boy and girl played in the sand as the mother read. Out of the blue the boy asked, “Do you want to see my castle?” I knelt down to admire his work. He launched into a detailed description of how he created two large towers, a moat, horse stables and a room for the king. He imagined where the army would try to attack and how his castle could withstand any force.
That is the gift of children. The capacity to perceive beyond sight, to envision other worlds, to hear the lyricism underneath life’s drone.
In Auguries of Innocence, William Blake wrote,
“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.”
I had been contemplative, even brooding, as I walked the shore, but hearing the boy’s vision lifted my spirits. Why was I allowed such a moment, to sit and hear about the child’s alternative reality?
The truth is that sometimes I just miss it. Maybe we all do. My heart gets hard. Life becomes something to endure, not the joy it can be. I lose myself. I lose God. I miss what’s happening under my feet. I focus on the rough edges of life instead of the goodness, the beauty, the what ifs.
Many people feel unmoored these days. They don't understand what God is doing, and maybe struggle to hear God's voice.
Once the writer Margaret Feinberg asked a friend, “How do I not become a hollow soul?” Without hesitation, the friend responded, “Never lose the wonder.”
Wonder is the prerequisite to joy. Wonder opens our eyes. G.K. Chesterton said, “We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.” Wonder is essential to worship. Why else worship unless that which one beholds exists beyond the realm of understanding?
Through Isaiah, God declared to a hard-hearted people: "Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish” (Isaiah 29:4)
What if God wanted to do something like that in your life? What if you’re overthinking life a bit too much? “Unless you change and become like little children,” Jesus said, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4) Children can’t do much for themselves. They can only receive and trust. The heart of a child is needed to experience wonder.
Earlier this summer, I felt weary as I concluded a communion service at a senior living home. One precious woman whom I have known for years has lost much of her memory, but when I saw her, the light of recognition dawned. She looked me in the eye and said, “I love you! I love you! I love you!” How I needed to hear those words that day.
As a church, we have big dreams, but also face big challenges. Many feel excited for our future, but many also have concerns. How are we to move forward, together, when we can't see the future? Sometimes it's hard to lift up our eyes to the hills, to remember where our help comes from (Psalm 121).
When the going gets tough, we need to turn to wonder. We need to ask, "God, what are you saying? What are you doing?"
How is your soul today? Are you anxious, afraid, uncertain or sad?
If you need to recapture a sense of wonder, just ask for it. God knows. Kneel down. Become like a child.