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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Capacity For Wonder; Capacity For God.

As many of you are aware, Tricia and I've been counseling folks since the late 80's. We continue to do so today. Lately, I've been struck by the sad reality when people run aground in their lives, or get entangled in unhealthy (sometimes destructive) attitudes and behaviors, or suffer binding wounds at the hands of other people, their capacity for wonder goes dark. It makes sense because along with its happy companions, fascination and delight, wonder requires an unforced ability to look beyond to catch a glimpse of stunning beauty, goodness, order, or transcendent Being animating all life.

True wonder and awe carries with it what Rudolf Otto termed in The Idea of the Holy: mysterium tremendum et fascinans (fearful and fascinating mystery). When we are captivated by something and our natural response is unself-conscious wonder, we experience the wholly Other such as when I received as a Christmas present, my first drum set. Later that evening I set it up in my room and lie there for a long while under the snare drum with my head next to the bass drum and pedal. Slowly and carefully I took in every inch of what I could see in disbelief that I possessed such a fascinating instrument. I was chock full of wonder!

You see, the capacity for wonder is the capacity to be intrigued and drawn by something or someone intrinsically compelling. Desire pursues a perceived opportunity for delight, maybe even inspiration and joy.
When you experience wonder you feel fully alive; your senses are heightened to take in full what you are apprehending. You want more of what is so fascinating. You are "taken" by it.

Ultimately, wisdom can summon us to the ultimate, wholly Other: God

Listen to King David:

1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

[The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]

Listen to the Apostle Paul:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Both men are filled with wonder and fascination at who God is and what he's done. They apprehend the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. They are captivated by and drawn to him. They acknowledged his sovereign Lordship as one who undividedly holds all the keys to life and death; He is to be respected and feared, but more importantly loved and enjoyed. His greatness and revelation are a noumenal signal light.

I consider our capacity for wonder an exquisite gift of God through which we can peer into (however briefly from this side of eternity), the unseen Real behind all our existence. More importantly, this capacity for wonder is, in turn, a capacity us to be drawn in when he reveals something of himself to us, and what really is. We can respond and move close to him (because of  Jesus, by the Spirit), or away from what seems to sparkle, but carries with it the sting of death. Capacity for wonder is a capacity for life and life in/with/for God. We were made for relationship and relationship with him, It is our true being; He is our true home.

So when people are turned away by the sorrows, trials and tribulations of life, they fall away from this capacity. It stills because pain and trouble, or sin takes center stage. All of us have experienced such a temporary "blindness." Some of us have been made so blind by it we cannot see the wonderful or truly worthwhile all around us. We trudge in a dry and dreary place reacting to impulse and experience, but never really seeing into/beyond as God invites us. Such is a true (but not irredeemable) and fearful tragedy.

So more and more I'm inviting folks to return or hold fast to their capacity for wonder as a means through troubles and suffering. I see many get caught in the problem and seem not to be able to reverse course or move beyond. For instance, I talked to someone who's had more than what would seem his fair share of trials and tribulations over many years. His capacity for wonder had been substantially been turned aside. He, at some point in our conversations, related he enjoyed being in nature and fly fishing. It clearly helped him feel alive and engaged. I encouraged him to make time for this opportunity for wonder in his life, and to begin seeing the beauty and goodness of God in what he has created. It would have a healing effect.

I hope he takes my counsel.

I am convinced that capacity for wonder leads to a capacity for God is we look "behind the veil," to consider God's works and ponder often just Who this is Who made anything at all, including us. Doing so brings us ever nearer to what we were made for:

 What is the chief End of Man? Answer: Man's chief End is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." (Westminster Catechism)

Open your eyes and ears. Open your heart. Confess your dullness and ask God to captivate your heart with wonder so you can see beauty and goodness and truth and a fascinating reality. Ask him to "do whatever it takes" to make it so.
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