I’m currently reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I love when books take me to a place of deep reflection and this one’s doing just that.
In Chapter 5, Manning speaks of a remarkable rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, who suffered a near-fatal heart attack. He told his closest friend who was at his bedside, that he had felt only gratitude for his life, for every moment he had lived, and that he was ready to go. He said, “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me.” Manning goes on to say that “A Philistine will stand before a Claude Monet painting and pick his nose; a person filled with wonder will stand there fighting back the tears.” He says that by and large, our world has lost its sense of wonder. It does seem that the older we get, that our sense of wonder and curiosity about the world seems to diminish.
While reading The Ragamuffin Gospel, I was reminded of a time when I was a newlywed on my honeymoon and standing at the railings at the brink of Niagara Falls. My new husband and I had arrived in Buffalo New York, checked into the Hilton Inn where we had reservations, threw down our suitcases on the bed, and ran to the window to see what kind of view we had. Excited that we could see the mist from the falls from our hotel window, we hurried down the hotel elevator and made our way outside, walking in the direction of the mist to go find this natural wonder we had so anxiously waited to see. We arrived at the falls just a few minutes later. We stood there arm in arm under blue skies, a misty breeze, and warm golden sunshine, marveling at the rush of the water and the deafening roar of the falls. I was fascinated and enthralled. I told my husband I could have stood there watching those falls all day. Hubby, on the other hand, within a few minutes didn’t seem all that interested in the falls and was doing more people watching than water watching. He said Niagara was a sight to behold for sure, but after a few minutes he had seen it and was ready to go. He said after all, it was just water falling over a vertical drop. I had dated this man for eight years before marrying him, but I learned that day just how different we were.
I remember as a young girl, laying barefoot in the grass with friends in the summer time, looking up at blue skies trying to find different shapes in the white cumulus clouds. Do kids even do that anymore? I remember taking long moonlit walks in the snow and marveling at the sparkling snow crystals glinting in the moonlight. Is there anything more beautiful? I remember a trip out west our family took many years ago. We were leaving Yellowstone National Park and heading back to our cottage at Jackson Lake Lodge when we drove into a rain shower and saw a giant rainbow. I had never before seen such a brilliant rainbow from end to end and it was glorious. Where I live in the city, it’s just not possible to see the ends of rainbows. On that same trip, I remember the breath-taking view of the Grand Tetons from the 60 foot windows in Jackson Lake Lodge which faced the Tetons. It overwhelmed my sense of wonder. Have you ever watched an ocean sunrise or sunset? I have, but I’d sure like to see more before I leave this earth. And I’d like a few more moonlit walks in the snow too.
I’ve experienced a few springs when I’ve seen blooming Bradford Pear or cherry trees so beautiful that for the life of me, I just couldn’t understand how some people could witness them and not know that there is a God who created them. I remember one spring driving my mother home from a chemotherapy appointment in the last months of her life. Everything was beginning to bloom and my mother remarked to me with a quivering voice and tear-filled eyes as she looked out the car window, that she was sure glad that God had allowed her to live to see one more spring and all its beauty. It was as if she was seeing spring for the first time with new eyes. Every spring since then, I think of that day in the car with my dying mother, and I pay a little more attention to that beauty she spoke about. And I’m filled with wonder because life gets chaotic and sometimes I forget to notice.
I never want to forget to notice God’s beauty.
Last fall, when flying home from New Orleans on a sunny afternoon, I stared out the window of the airplane at the cloud formations and the scenes below. I don’t travel much and rarely if ever fly, but seeing those clouds and all that beauty made me sad that I didn’t. I sure enjoyed the window-seat view that day. I felt such gratitude to God that day and I think I must have said “WOW” to myself a hundred times or more on that one hour trip back home.
Have you ever just held a rose and really looked at it? Looked at all its folds, its brilliant color? Have you ever stopped to inhale its sweet fragrance? Felt the smoothness of its petals on your cheek? I remember being about 15 years old and finding myself in the middle of a country meadow full of wild daisies (my favorite flower). I remember standing in place and turning 360° and seeing daisies as far as the eyes could see. And I remember thinking, this surely must be what heaven is like.
I do think that people are losing their sense of wonder. And that advanced technology is contributing to that loss. Look around in a restaurant, or an airport, or anywhere for that matter, and notice how people are so intent at staring into their phones than into each other’s eyes. Children today don’t engage in much free and imaginative play and the electronic devices that they are glued to take away their ability to use their imagination and creativity. It makes me sad.
We must never lose our longing to be moved, to be awed, to be fascinated by nature and our world. Put away your phone and experience life, nature, and the world God gave us to live in.
Life is full of wonder, but we must awaken and be able to consciously recognize and acknowledge that wonder.