The Reason We Lose Wonder (And How To Recover It)
I don’t usually share my journal with others, but this thought has been preying on my mind for weeks on end, so here begins the open journal of a naturally private girl:
“I have a passion for life. I am addicted to living. And I think at times that I’ve been deprived far too long….I know God has a plan for me and is in control of my future, but is it true that I can hold, at least as far as is humanly possible, the reins of my own existence? I want to go certain places and be certain things…It is not so much that I am worried about the future, or that I wish to look ahead in the years down the road like I’ve wanted to before. I just want to begin my future.”
And it’s true, in many ways, that I am just beginning life. But I also have already begun life. I’ve been living it for almost 18 years, and while that seems a very short time in relation to the years I will probably live on this earth, and especially in light of the time I will live in eternity, it is also a very long time to feel like you’re not living yet.
I think much of this problem has to do with a lack of wonder.
We don’t realize that family and home and our daily tasks are the stuff of what life is made of, and we envy those seemingly dramatic experiences that spontaneously burst on life’s outer fringes. We have the two dramas reversed: we think the sunrise is the only real part of the day.
G.K. Chesterton once said:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again;’ and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
God is strong enough to exult in monotony. We don’t lose our wonder by experiencing life, but because we have forgotten how to experience life. We have forgotten how to enjoy our enjoyments. We have forgotten how to wonder at wonders.
Wonder Needs Gratitude
The first place I notice myself losing my sense of wonder is in the home. The day-in, day-out drudgery of daily tasks, the constant and distracting clamor of young children, the slow and steady repetition of the same series of hours and duties over and over again.
The constant “looking forward” to times when the redundancy is broken by an unexpected outing with friends, or a vacation, or a weekend seem to provide a constant excuse for ignoring the gift of the present. “I’ve looked forward so much to today! I need to get out more — I have no life.” We say, half-jokingly, half to cover up our honest fears and our sense of aimlessness.
How do we regain our wonder? The first thing we need is gratitude.
We must regard life as a gift and a privilege to enjoy. We must begin by being thankful. C.S. Lewis believed that all of life pointed unending praise to its Source — we look along the sunbeam, and behold, the sun! We look along our gifts, and behold, The Giver!
Gratitude allows us to see our daily tasks and seeming inconveniences with new eyes. Gratitude shows us that the real pleasure in life is simply being pleased. The real humor of life is simply laughing. The real joy in life is simply being joyful. We place an infinite amount of emphasis on the pursuit of happiness, and never on happiness itself.
We strive to satisfy our discontent with an endless longing for what we think will make us happy, without realizing that the only cure for discontent is, in fact, contentment.
Wonder Needs Humility
So what is the secret to seeing all life as a gift? Humility in the presence of the Giver.
Gratitude and humility go hand in hand with wonder. It is impossible to wonder at something, without feeling grateful for it. It is also impossible to wonder at something without feeling small, and without feeling privileged to be able to enjoy it, and without recognizing the fact that it is undeserved.
Pride not only precedes the fall from the height we had in discovery, it is the fall. But when we become astonished at the things we have hardened ourselves against, and become vulnerable once more to the abounding vitality of existence, when we wonder at how the rain falls, and the eagle soars, and the proud waves of the sea find their limits, then like Job, we are compelled to put our hands over our mouths, and find our longings satisfied with praise.
Wonder Needs Hope
All our lives we find ourselves looking ahead. But we either don’t look well or don’t look far enough.
Our ever-present longing for the future is not too strong, but too weak. We can’t enjoy the gifts of the present because we have lost our ability to see to Whom they point. We can’t take pleasure in the sunbeams because we have grown accustomed to ignoring the Son.
As C.S. Lewis stated:
“If we consider the unblushing promises…and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Wonder is not only necessary to enjoy the gift of life but to receive the promises of the Gospel. Christ said that unless we “receive the Kingdom of God like a child” we will “never receive it.” Why? Because we won’t be small enough.
Both the believer and the skeptic are broken by the abounding mercy of the Gospel — both find it too good to be true. But the skeptic is crushed into a deeper skepticism, and the believer sinks to his knees.
With the abounding wonder and gratitude and humility of a child, he seeks not to be born, but to be reborn; not life, but resurrection. “Do it again,” he whispers. “And our Father, who is younger than we, rejoices and does it again.”
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