by Christine Sine
By the simple act of altering the position of one’s head a different kind of world may appear
(Robert Macfarlane Landmarks 241)
A few years ago, I decided to have what I called “A Year of Seeing Differently. I had no idea how true this would be or how much of an impact this concept would have on me. “Read life differently” became so important to me that it became a way of life rather than just a season.
I had fun looking in different ways at all kinds of things from leaves to scenery to give me that different perspective I often need that is little more than a tilt of my head away.
Of course I could try standing on my head, lying on the ground or looking through the lens of a camera, or looking through my fingers or even just moving around a tree. All of these actions give me a different perspective, an important perspective that when combined together slowly give me a full understanding of what I am looking at. I have not tried standing on my head yet to get a different perspective of Jesus, but I have spent the last few years looking at him through different lenses too.
More than anything, that year taught me to look at life through the lens of awe and wonder which led to the writing of The Gift of Wonder, which I still think is the best book I have written.
Writing The Gift of Wonder changed me and my spiritual perceptions in ways I never anticipated. It all started with the awe and wonder walks Tom and I instituted after reading about the impact of awe and wonder depletion on our lives. Take notice, take notice, take notice was the core of what I read – take notice of the small things, the big things, the different things , the things that break our hearts and the things that give us goosebumps. That was what I picked up as I researched awe and wonder, and then I applied it to my life.
Noticing Begets Noticing
Wow – what a year. Noticing begat noticing begat noticing. Once I opened my eyes, awe and wonder became a new way to see the world and new spiritual lens through which to view everything. It doesn’t mean I naively saw only good things around me, but it meant I could look with awe and wonder at those who suffer as well as those who rejoice. There is so much resilience in suffering people. There is kindness and compassion, there is generosity that overwhelms me. When I look with the eyes of awe and wonder I am inspired to respond.
Here on Godspace I began the year with the blog series “for love of the world God did foolish things’ – so many foolish things that God has done – from creating humankind from soil, and giving us free will knowing that one day we would mess it all up, to putting into action a plan for our redemption that depended on a baby born to an unwed mother. That baby, Jesus, then ended up being crucified by the religious and political leaders of the day. How foolish can you get?
If that wasn’t enough to rattle my cage and encourage me to see differently, I started to take more notice of the political landscape and the stories that broke my heart. Gun violence, political chaos, hurricanes, fires and migrant caravans all pulled my heart apart. Yet they also inspired me as I gazed with awe and wonder at first responders risking their lives for people they never knew, and watched the resilience in the midst of desperation of people who have lost everything.
The event that most impacted me that year was Ford vs Kavanaugh. It compelled me to look at the story of Mary and Joseph with fresh eyes, revealing new layers of the gospel story and new depths of awe and wonder for this incredible couple and the incredible journey they embarked on, literally changing the world as a result.
Seeing Differently As A Way of Life.
My year of seeing differently became a lifetime of seeing differently. COVID reinforced that need. All I did was resolve to keep noticing and keep going on awe and wonder walks. That of course means I needed to slow down long enough to do so. I need constant reminders however. A more recent article Why You Need to Protect Your Sense of Wonder – Especially Now. the author suggests:
Awe’s benefits extend beyond stress relief, however. Research has shown that experiencing something bigger than us helps us transcend our frame of reference by expanding our mental models and stimulating new ways of thinking. This can increase creativity and innovation, and facilitate scientific thinking and ethical decision making.
It also helps us build relationships. Though feeling awe frequently happens in solitude, it draws us out of ourselves and toward others and inspires pro-social behavior like generosity and compassion. Some scientists theorize that it has evolved to aid group cohesion and provide survival advantages. For work groups experiences of awe can lead to increased collaboration, team building, and social connection.
Wow, awe and wonder here we come! Something good did come out of COVID. We started to notice the world around us in new ways. Awe and wonder is not just a form of observation either. It means noticing emotions and our responses to them. It means not turning our backs because we feel overwhelmed but allowing the spirit of God to work through us in response to what we have noticed be it by the simple act of picking up a rock that caught our attention or by getting involved with the homeless or the victims of fire.
Awe and wonder has the capacity to change us and to change the world. I know it has done that for me, will you allow it to do it for you too?
Read life differently.
Read with love and not with hate,
with compassion and not with judgment,
with generosity and not with scarcity.
See your cup,
not half full,
not half empty
but overflowing with goodness and light and life.
Read life differently.
Look for the wonder of uniqueness,
not the exclusion of sameness.
Embrace don’t reject.
Forgive don’t condemn.
Seek Jesus in all things.
Work diligently to know,
he who is the way, the truth, the life.
Follow his footsteps,
in the way that leads to eternal life.