The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”-G.K. Chesterton
I want to begin a short series today on wonder and awe and our need to be able to discover our place in God’s good universe. But I’m convinced that all of that starts with being able to find God in it first.
When I was growing up, the gravest sin that I could think of committing was taking the LORD’s name in vain. I wasn’t sure exactly why or how to do it, but I grew up knowing that if I said “God” I had better be praying.
To that end, my parents, my friend’s parents and just about every adult in my life enforced a rule. Not only were we not allowed to say “Oh my God’ but we couldn’t use any words associated with God.
We couldn’t even say “Gosh” which I always assumed was just God’s informal name, or maybe a divine cousin or something.
I may sound like I’m complaining, but I assure you I’m not. This actually developed in me a sense that talking about God mattered. If we said God’s name we had better mean it.
I still remember the first time that I saw Niagra Falls. Watching millions of gallons of water pouring over the cliff, I remember feeling appropriately small and whispering “Oh my gosh.”
Old habits die hard.
I grew up never saying “Oh my God” and I plan to raise my kids with that same rule, until I can teach them that phrase is a special one that only belongs in those moments of great awe, fear and reverence.
I hope that they have plenty of opportunities to say it.
Growing up, we were worried that we would take God’s name in vain, I’m beginning to be concerned that a generation is growing up that is taking God’s creation in vain.
Finding Wonder In Rainbows
Maybe you saw this video from a few years ago, it’s about a man who was in Yosemite part and he suddenly noticed a double rainbow in the sky. And he totally lost it.
Watch this video, and you’ll see what I mean. This guy has appeared on several national television shows and keeps insisting that he was sober while this was happening, and he keeps being asked.
If you watch the video, you’ll find yourself laughing, and another part of yourself will be slightly jealous. Because this man knows how to see a rainbow.
I love the way the musician Michael Gungor talks about this video:
Tens of millions of people watch this viral YouTube video and laugh at the absurdity of a (supposedly sober) grown man weeping and screaming in…pleasure over something as simple as moisture playing with light in the sky. But all of this makes me wonder if we should be laughing with Double Rainbow Guy rather than at him?
Most of us watch him with the assumption that our jaded indifference to the colors of the rainbow is the norm, and that he is the less-than-sane one. But maybe he saw something that day that you and I haven’t yet seen in a rainbow. Maybe he feels something that all of us would feel if we learned how to really see.
In other words, one man sees rainbows and can’t stop laughing from joy, we can’t stop laughing at him…and we think he’s the crazy one.
I think it’s interesting that boredom is a modern invention, and interesting that almost everyone these days is bored.
The world for the centuries before us saw the world as enchanted, it was unsafe and adventuresome and risky. We used to live in a universe that had a heartbeat.
And while, secularized people are resistant to the idea that a world without God is a world without awe, I think it’s indicative that Charles Darwin after establishing his doctrine of natural selection described himself as having lost the ability for wonder.
Here’s how Darwin described himself:
“Up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds…gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare…Formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also lost any taste for pictures or music…I retain some taste for fine scenery but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did…My mind seems to have become a machine for fringing general laws out of large collections of facts…the loss of these fastest is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” -Charles Darwin
I know that plenty of Christians have beaten up on Darwin through the years, but I find this kind of honest self-appraisal refreshing. He sees the dangers of a world without beauty and wonder.
I don’t think that evolution has to mean this, after all no less than Pope Francis recently affirmed that evolution is probably how God created the world, and I have many godly Christian friends who have no problem with reconciling Darwin’s ideas and the Christian doctrine of Creation.
Surprised by Heaven on Earth
The problem isn’t between science and God, the problem is when we use an explanation for Creation as a means to dismiss the Creator.
The problem comes when we look into the sky and see only moisture mixing with light in the sky and can not see the rainbow.
I’ve noticed that what you look for is what you will find in this world, and what you seek you will find.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in Genesis 28, it’s where this guy named Jacob is on a road trip. He becomes tired and decides to rest for the night.
Genesis actually tells us that he stopped at “a certain place” which is an ancient idiom that was used to say this is not a very special place, there are no landmarks there, it’s just a rest stop.
But Jacob goes to sleep and suddenly everything is transformed around him, He sees a thin space between Heaven and Earth with angels ascending and descending and when he wakes up Jacob exclaims, “Surely the Lord was in this place, and I was not aware of it”
One of the points of this story is that Jacob had been metaphorically asleep, and he finally woke up.
It wasn’t that God just showed up somewhere, God had been in the place the whole time and finally Jacob showed up.
And Jacob immediately said “Surely God is in this place”
Or in other words, “Oh My God.
Or for those of you who grew up like I did, “Awesome Gosh.”