09 August 2012

Engaged Wonder in The Primary

I usually don’t use the word “wonder” – it’s come to have an empty-headed meaning for me. But I cannot avoid the truth that wonder is what we are to have–not dumb wonder, but engaged wonder.
A child who wonders is completely absorbed mentally and emotionally. And, this absorption is a mental transport to another world.

His fascination is just that: a temporary “fastening” of his attention on this new experience or object. Whether he’s seeing it for the first time, or seeing anew, it makes no difference. It seems children are designed by the very newness of their lives, to have “sticky” imaginations. They imagine and create in their minds new wonders behind the new wonder.  Children do this even though (we’re told) when they experience wonder they make only the roughest of links between the new and the familiar.

Still, there a lesson for the adult in the wonderment of children. We are children of the living God. And if God were “fully discoverable” by us, it would not merely mean He would be merely different from how we define Him. If (let’s imagine) we “knew” everything there was to know about God and the universe, then there would be untold sets of consequences us.

We would also lose all sorts of things to wonder about: our imaginations would die on the vine for lack of stimulation. Language would lose its richness. Of course, there would be no such thing as having faith--for we would have all the “facts” which had been reliably measured and tested—and which could be replicated.

Happily, God has shielded us this-we barely begin to understand it all even with centuries behind us—and as a result we have intact our childlike ability to wonder about Him and His universe.
GK Chesterton said, (in the Introduction to the Book of Job), “God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. [God] insists on the inexplicableness of everything. … God will make man see things, if it is only against the black background of nonentity. …He unrolls before Job a long panorama of created things, the horse, the eagle, the raven, the wild ass, the peacock, the ostrich, the crocodile. He so describes each of them that it sounds like a monster walking in the sun. The whole is a sort of …rhapsody of the sense of wonder.”

Right he is about wonder: children, when faced with the facts, often find the objects of their wonderment even more fascinating. I was about 5 years old when on a moonlight night, I remarked on the brightness of the “moon-shine.” I recall my mother explaining that the light was merely reflected from the sun. This fact only stirred in me even greater wonder: “How could a sun, which is hidden from view at night, be so powerful as to bestow a sun-like radiance on an otherwise empty and dark sphere?” Wonder was boosted by the facts, facts did not diminish my awe of (what little I knew) of the galaxy.

Jesus Christ used the child’s occupation by a foreign wonder as a model to the disciples. In the presence of the Messiah, he desired them to absorb, to mull over the implications of His being with them.

 “They started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side. “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.” Luke 9: 46-48 (The Message)

Indeed, when we are absorbed by the Almighty Illuminator, light is shed on so many things in our lives. Once we have the childlike absorption by what should be and is First, then the secondary things fade into the background. Paradoxically, as the secondary things diminish in importance, the pleasure we derive from them increases.

“When the sun is vertically above a man he casts no shadow: similarly when we have come to the Divine meridian our spiritual shadow (that is, our consciousness of self) will vanish.” – C S Lewis