Friday, December 28, 2012

A Child-like Wonder Before God

                With 2 sons that are now 4 and 1 years old, Christmas has become even more fun the past few years.  Arinne and I were both battling a touch of the flu this year, but Christmas morning was still the most fun I can remember having in a long time, and it was a family memory that Arinne and I already treasure.  On opening each gift, we got to watch the boys give an expression of pure joy, followed by 10 minutes or so of playing, before we had to remind them that there were still more gifts to open!   It took so long that we even had to pause and eat breakfast (cinnamon rolls from Sherry Hulen – thanks Sherry!) before finishing the gift opening.  But we were in no hurry; the boys were great, and seeing them have such fun was simply an absolute joy.

                I think more than anything else, we will remember how much the boys loved the Polar Express train that was going around the tree on Christmas morning.  Arinne had picked it up last January in a clearance section, and we kept it hidden in the closet all year until setting it up late on Christmas Eve after the boys had gone to bed.  I had to run out late that night to find a gas station and get batteries that worked (the first time I’ve been part of that longstanding parental Christmas tradition!), but it was definitely worth the effort.  It was so funny to us to see their eyes get big when they saw the train running along its track.  Riley was eager to learn how to work it himself, and quickly handled the remote like an expert, while Eian just wanted to sit and stare at the train, making his own ‘choo-choo’ sound as it passed.  In fact, we probably could’ve gotten away with having the train as the only gift, and they would’ve spent all day having a blast watching it start, stop, and make noise.  It’s been there 3 days now, and they still love to sit and play with the train.

                Watching Riley and Eian stare in joy at the train on Christmas morning, at one point I consciously thought to myself: I love the sense of wonder that children have, at something as simple as a miniature train, and it’s sad that many people seem to lose that as they get older.  I hope I haven’t lost that myself, because from watching Riley and Eian, it’s clear to me that a sense of wonder is a joyful thing to have.  And perhaps it’s not only a joyful thing to have, you might could even say that it’s an important part of our faith.

 Amazement in the Gospel of Mark

                We’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark in our Bible class, and one of the things we’re already finding is the gospels’ emphasis on the amazement that Jesus brought to those who saw Him.  People are “amazed” at His teaching (Mark 1:22), and “amazed” at seeing Him cast out demons (Mark 1:27).  They are “amazed” at watching a paralytic be made to walk, “glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’” (Mark 2:12).  People are so amazed that they can’t stop talking about Jesus, and there are times that Jesus can’t even go into populated areas because of the celebrity caused by the people’s amazement (Mark 1:45). 

                That sense of amazement never ceases throughout His ministry, and as we continue our Bible classes we will see people amazed at His healings, His teachings, His trial, and His resurrection.  In fact, as Jesus continues to work through His church in the Book of Acts, people will continue to be “filled with wonder and amazement” as they see the mighty works of God (Acts 3.10). 

Keeping "Wonder" Part of My Faith 

                I hope we all stand before God, even today, with a sense of wonder and amazement at His works.  There have been distinct occasions in my life when I found myself consciously amazed at the work of God.  Times when I saw His work so clearly in answered prayers or guiding providence, and there was no doubt in my mind that God was real and that He was active in His world.  I stood in awe of the God that could tie things together in ways that no one and nothing else could. 

                My guess is that sense of amazement becomes more rare the further down life’s path we go.  Maybe because we see too many “amazing” things – sunsets, the Grand Canyon, a meteor shower, the mountains – and the wonder of creation becomes something we simply accept as normal.  Or maybe we become jaded by bad experiences, and a fear of future negativity crowds out the wonder of a moment of grace.  Or maybe we are so conditioned to try to define everything in more scientific terms – it was the chemo that defeated the cancer, or it was the high-pressure warm front that brought the rain, or it was chemical reactions in the brain that brought those thoughts together – and we are tempted to forget the hand that actually moves those legitimate scientific explanations.  Whatever the reason, it seems that getting older means we are expected to lay aside wonder and amazement, replacing it with apathy, fear, ‘knowledge,’ or some other “more mature” emotion. 

                Well, whenever I see the work of God, in creation, in answered prayers, in guiding my life, in His saving grace – I don’t want to let myself feel pressured into faking a more mature emotion.   I want to feel the appropriate biblical emotion: a heart of wonder and amazement at the all-powerful God who is not only real but is working in His people.  To fall down before the throne like Isaiah.  To beg to know God more deeply like Moses.  To sing out in adoring praise like David.  To let the glory of the cross never cease to motivate me like Paul.  For those faithful shining lights who have gone before us, a sense of wonder before God seems to be almost a prerequisite for deep faith.  The fact is, we don’t have everything figured out, and we never will, so we absolutely should remain open to the idea that God can continually surprise and amaze us. 

So for me, I pray that my eyes will always open wide when I see the gifts of God.  I want my jaw to drop, my heart to smile, and my mind to feel the same amazement of those who saw Jesus at work in the flesh.  If we’ve let the world’s expectations rob us of a holy sense of amazement, let’s pray about that, and let’s rekindle what never should’ve been lost.  No matter how long I live, I always want to hold onto that appropriate sense of wonder, one that even Riley and Eian would be proud of. 

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