Our Longing for Wonder
I read this poem the other day by Mary Oliver that was actually the inspiration for this particular Devo. This is what she wrote:
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
Let me explain why this resonated with me so much.
You see, it's easy to lose your sense of wonder when your days seem to be filled with routines, hard conversations, anxiety about the future, or about a hundred other stressors.
Like maybe you are in the midst of a serious struggle with health issues, financial woes, problems in a relationship, or work-related worries. And most likely, if you are like the rest of us, you're not just dealing with one thing.
So it's no wonder that losing our ability to experience wonder (the kind of joyful surprises that gives texture and a sense of joy de vivre to your life) is something that accompanies these kinds of challenges.
I just thought of a quote from Christopher Moltisanti, one of the characters from the HBO TV series The Sopranos, who addresses his depression and lack of joy this way: "It's like the (expletive) regularness of life is too hard for me."
Whether we realize it at the moment of losing it or not, wonder is something that our souls long for, and we feel the loss of it deeply, even if we can't put our finger on why it makes us ache.
The temptation for us when we begin to feel that ache is to try and fill it with all kinds of other things, most of which are harmful and not helpful. Or we retreat into relationships, groups, or communities where there is an illusion of certainty.
That last bit is why there are so many Christians who gravitate toward churches, denominations, or beliefs that offer a "black and white" faith with little or no room for "grey." Their sense of wonder has faded, and they replace it instead with dogmatism.
Despite the fact that Jesus counseled his followers against such a move, far too many of us who claim to follow Jesus don't seem to heed his advice all that well. The end result of all of this is a rigid, dualistic, exclusive kind of faith, whose adherents can appear arrogant, angry, and often combative.
If you are in those kinds of communities or relationships and start to ask questions...
Or begin to wake up to the knowledge that your faith might be too small...
Or you actually find yourself startled by wonder, overcome with joy because you finally let go of your either/or theology...
You might find that the only way forward for you is to leave those relationships or communities. You might also get kicked out. Both of these ways of leaving are hard and painful for us, but almost always they are exactly what we need.
Because only when we let go of our need for certainty will we be able to have our eyes opened to the wondrous, holy work of the Spirit all around us, in us, and through us.
May you find the courage to step toward wonder. May you be set free to laugh in astonishment at the joyful presence of God at play in the world. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.