Monday, June 27, 2011

Does Anybody Remember Wonder?

While waiting to board my plane in Houston to fly home, I grabbed this photo, which sparked this entry.  Note first the two little kids farther away against the window to the right of the pole:  They were unabashedly amazed at the plane, the guy driving the luggage cart, everything out there.  Now notice the older kid close to me:  He's a bit more cool, because it's no longer cool to be wide-eyed in wonder at his ripe old age of, what, 10?  But he was still a bit excited, albeit in a subdued way.
I totally understand the eagerness to grow up & appear unphased about anything.  It's what happens between his age and, say, mine that concerns me.

In the live version of Led Zeppelin's anthem "Stairway to Heaven" there's a point when Robert Plant chimes in with a plaintive cry, "Does anyone remember laughter??"  If you know that version, picturing me in my best Robert Plant delivery, and here's my question in this blurb: "Does anyone remember wonder??"

Something happens along the way as we grow older that steadily & systematically removes wonder from our normal range of emotions.  We make life coldly rational & academic & intellectual, in the process killing off a healthy sense of wonder.  (Reminder: 1) I am a professor who teaches a fairly coldly rational subject--finance; 2) Apart from that, my own default approach to life & its happenings is rational & academic.)

This killing of wonder is to our great detriment, in my opinion. 

In the preface to The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, which introduces us to Narnia & Aslan the Lion & the white witch & an amazing world, C.S. Lewis wrote to this the young lady he wrote the stories for initially: "I suppose by the time I finish writing this, you'll be too old to read fairy tales any more.  One day, though, you'll be old enough to read fairy tales again, and then you can read this and tell me what you think." (paraphrased)

So, the question: when do we grow old enough to read fairy tales again?  When do we laugh with fauns & listen to beavers?  When do we again become amazed that a hunk of metal can fly through the air with a bunch of people inside & come down far away at the location of the pilot's choosing?  When do we again marvel at a sunset's beauty?  Or the wonder of a night sky filled with stars?  When do we stop & ponder the wag of a dog's tail & just smile?  When are we allowed to be blown away by the absolute silence of a bike ride in the woods? When can we just stare in open-mouthed amazement at the USM Jazz Band as they perform?  When do crepe myrtles blooming get to take our breath away again?  When do we start again being absolutely astounded that s/he loves us just like we are?  Or for that matter, jaw-droppingly astounded that love exists in the first place?

Consider these words:  awesome...wonderful.  Those words, like most words in our wonder-starved existence, have become cheapened.  We apply them to pizza on a buffett, for crying out loud!

If the whole idea of "wonder" bothers your coldly rational self, I have a scary thought & a challenge for you.  The scary thought: Heaven won't be enjoyable for you!  The challenge: go read passages like Isaiah 6 & Revelation 19-21 & other Bible passages about heaven.  Heaven will be a place of eternal awesome glorious wonder & amazement!

Perhaps our loss of wonder is why we short sell the Gospel if we regard it at all.  The Gospel is not a self-help program whereby Jesus is our super-cool friend who helps get us over the bumps life throws at us, while winking at our shortcomings.  Nor is the Gospel a political agenda (If you think one has to vote a certain way in order to be a Christian, there's quite a bit of the Book you need to re-read, and quite a number of people you need to meet!  But that's another topic for another day...). 

No, the Gospel as proclaimed in Scripture is that we were created in the image of & to have a close relationship with an all-knowing, all-powerful, absolutely holy & righteous & just God, Who knows every thought we ever will have & ever action we ever will take.  Sin separates us from that close relationship.  And He is justly offended by our sin nature & our sinful actions...but amazingly He is also totally loving of us just like we are, in all the muck & mire of our humanity & sins.  His justice & righteous & holiness require atonement to be made.  Note: God would be absolutely just if there were NO WAY to re-connect with Him & experience forgiveness; the reality that there's one way is infinitely more than we deserve.  There's a good starting point for wonder...A totally just God Who is also totally loving.  (Aside: Imagine a universe in which God were not just...*shudder*)  Thus, the part that's so amazing that we will never get over it & we can only partially comprehend it by grace: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  That.  Is. Amazingly.  Awesome!  (in the truest sense of the word)

Essentially, then, the bad news is that we're much worse off than we think we are; start by comparing yourself to total sinless perfection...yeah, me neither.  The good news...the INCREDIBLE news! beyond our wildest dreams!  That incredible news is that you & I are loved right now, just like we are by the One Who hung the stars, and Who pursues us desiring to have that relationship restored with us.  So much so that, again, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

If your life has been reduced to coldly rational intellectualism, please consider this Gospel.  Here it is in one verse: "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 6:23)  Amazing grace, indeed!

Perhaps our loss of wonder is why Heaven seems like a boring place to imagine...and why faith seems so child-like, if not childish...and why we feel entitled to be loved...and why we yawn as we stand for Handel's glorious "Hallelujah Chorus"...

Let me leave you with some lyrics that Bill Gaither penned a while back, that just crush me every time I listen:

Worthy the Lamb

Hear the cries of the shackled from the onset of time,
For the chains of defeat, there's no key.
See the tears of the broken, the cries of the slaves,
Is there no one worthy to set us free?

Then the crying is stilled as the chorus rings out,
The shackled released from their chains,
And thousands of voices are swelling the song,
"Worthy the Lamb that was slain!"

Worthy, worthy, worthy the Lamb that was slain (repeat)

And all the archangels, the saints of all time,
Holding their crowns in their hands,
Fall down before Him, joining the song,
"Worthy, worthy the Lamb!"

(repeat chorus)

Do yourself a favor & watch this clip of the Gaither Vocal Band doing the song (5 minutes long).  FYI, Bill's the first one who sings, and he himself would say, as a singer he's a very good songwriter.  Still, note the emotions he & the other guys have after all these times singing this; note how Marshall Hall is only barely able to get through his verse; note Guy Penrod falling his tall self to his knees.  Awesome...(Me?  Yeah, I've watched it probably 50 times, & have a perfect record of 0 for 50 in terms of getting all the way through it without an allergy attack...I hope my record stays intact, if anyone's curious.)

Don't lose the wonder!


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