Meditation Monday – Revisiting The Gift of Wonder

by Christine Sine
Mt Rainier from the plane

by Christine Sine

Yesterday I spoke at Grace Fellowship Community Church in San Francisco. They are doing a book study on my book The Gift of Wonder and I had the privilege of launching their study, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some of what I spoke about.

Wonder is a beautiful gift from God. It changes our approach to life. Even fleeting experiences of awe focus us away from self-interest to concern for others and orient our actions towards the needs of those around us – so important in today’s world. Tomorrow we will experience an eclipse of the sun. One of my friends is travelling to Texas to enjoy the full experience. I may not see this eclipse but I do remember the last one. People in Seattle gathered in parks, laughed, cried and sang together with strangers. It was an exhilarating experience of awe and wonder.  

Maybe that is part of what our scripture reading this morning is all about; Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. These words riveted my attention when I was preparing to write The Gift of Wonder. 

When I asked my Facebook friends What childlike characteristics they thought make us fit for the kingdom an amazing list emerged: playfulness, awe and wonder, imagination, curiosity, love of nature, gratitude and many more. It was this list that formed the basis for my book. 

According to Stuart Brown head of the Institute for Play, nothing lights up the brain like play. He believes it is as important as oxygen for our survival, God’s greatest gift to humankind. Adults need to play as much as kids do. And by play he means unstructured activity without a set purpose in mind. It bonds us together, heals and de-stresses us and tells people we are safe to be around. 

Awe and wonder is possibly even more important. A daily dose of awe changes our attitude to the world. It moves us from individualism and materialism to community and the needs of others. It makes us more caring and compassionate people. It also brings healing to those who are traumatized and suffering from PTSD. 

Yet we live in a world of play deprivation, awe and wonder depletion, and nature deficit disorder. I wonder if we suffer from God depletion too as a result. 

Our world shimmers with the glory of God, but we have lost our ability to appreciate that wonder and therefore to discover the healing power it holds. Day Schildkret – Native American artist who gathers natural objects and crafts them into exotic mandalas which are illustrated in his beautiful book Morning Altars says There is a wealth of beauty and wonder littered all around us, right outside our own front door. We have just forgotten how to see it…. 

Robert McFarlane in another fascinating book, Landmarks suggests we have not only lost our ability to appreciate wonder but we have also lost the language to express it. In the recent update to the Children’s Oxford Dictionary, some words were taken out and others added. All those removed had to do with nature and all those added had to do with technology. We have stunned the world out of wonder he says. Even the word awesome has lost its meaning. It has become more an expression of appreciation than a gasp of awe that something is breathtakingly incredible. 

McFarlane calls for the re-wonderment of the world and as we move forward in our post pandemic reality, facing the injustice of systemic racism and of war and violence this is very much what we need. We don’t just need re-wonderment of the world but re-wonderment of our view of God and a re-wonderment of our impressions of the people we share the planet with too. All of us are made in the image of God and every creature has a spark of divine life within it – now that really is awe inspiring.  

Embracing re-wonderment, particularly while writing The Gift of Wonder changed me in ways I never anticipated, filling me with joy and a delight in life I never expected, especially in the midst of the world we live in which seems full of chaos, injustice and trauma. 

I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering child-like wonder and the joy of play is essential for our spiritual health. Awe and wonder, imagination and curiosity connect us to the God who is present in every moment and every thing in a way that nothing else can. These qualities do bring healing to body, soul and spirit, moving us from isolation to community and help us find safety in the presence of both God and of others. 

Children experience awe a hundred times a day, adults rarely do. 

Pathway covered with cherry blossoms

Pathway covered with cherry blossoms (c) Christine Sine

As a result of my research I added a “daily dose of awe” to my spiritual disciplines. During the pandemic, I developed what I call my awe and wonder walks, reconnecting to the wonderment of God to help me focus more deliberately on our truly awe inspiring Creator. These have become an extension of my contemplative time and the mainstay of my spiritual life. They give me peace in the midst of chaos, and strength when I feel overwhelmed. As I walk I very deliberately focus on the awe and wonder of what I see. I need to be very intentional about this. I usually like to focus on one particular aspect of my walk – the freshly emerging spring flowers, the pattern of the sky, the people and dogs I pass and greet on my way. I name the things that fill me with awe, and make joy bubble up within me. At the moment its the daffodils, tulips and myriad of flowering trees. I savour these sights and my response to them and the revelation of God in the midst of these. Then I come home and read scripture focusing on that same response of noticing and naming. 

Yesterday it was my plane trip from Seattle that provided my daily dose of awe. I was the one with my window shutter up when everyone was trying to see their screens. I was inspired by the majestic mountains and the meandering rivers. which made me feel “That’s God doodling down there. .

This doesn’t mean I naively see only good things around me, Greg Boyle who works with the homeless in L.A. suggests that we can embrace the marginalized with a sense of awe too. – I am awed by their resilience, perseverance and sense of community.  Greg Boyle says “Awe softens us for the thunder glance of God then enables us to glance at others in just the same way. (This is truly what I experience on my morning walks. 

As I walk, I am not only caught up in the wonder of God’s beauty but also by the wonder of the depths of God’s pain and of the fact that God is willing to share our pain. This is a God who is not distant and unconcerned. Sometimes I sit in the midst of my pain. I ache and I grieve and wonder at the fact that God grieves with me. I think of those who are trying to bring aid to the people of Gaza, of those fighting in Ukraine and other wars around the globe, of those responding to the earthquake in Taiwan. In these people I feel I see God reaching out and I am awed by the evidence of God’s love in our midst.  

Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go. 

I think that Jesus always maintained his childlike awe and wonder. We see it in his zest for life, enjoyment of meals, embrace of kids – all of which made him despised by the religious leaders. 

I suspect he was often surrounded by kids – a little like the parade of young people that always followed me when I wandered through an African village. In my mind, when that little boy came to offer his fish and loaves to Jesus, He didn’t come alone. I imagine him surrounded by a crowd of giggling dancing kids who pushed their friend forward because they all believed Jesus could perform a miracle. And in the background are Jesus disciples worrying about how they could pay for food for this huge crowd or where on earth they could send them to buy their own food. I think that only the kids had the wide-eyed wonder it took to believe that the miracle Jesus could perform would give the whole crowd a glimpse of heaven’s abundance..

That’s why Jesus encouraged his disciples to become like children. 

When was the last time you sat in awe of God’s greatness or jumped in excitement and shouted your praises to God believing that God still performs miracles of provision and healing? 

So I would encourage you today to look back over the last week or month with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. What, has inspired and awed you – about God, about the world in which we live, about the people you have met and worked with, about the cultures you have interacted with? There is no limit to the aspects of this world that can help us experience awe and wonder and provide us with the tools we need to better engage in the pain and suffering of those around us. We do live in a wonderful world, with a wonderful God. All we need to do is to open our eyes and take notice.

We need a daily dose of awe – and it isn’t just nature that gives us a sense of awe. Here are a few steps you might like to try now, to embrace the gift of wonder:

  • Read some children’s books – When I asked a good friend who is an expressive arts therapist how to open myself to awe and wonder she said – read some children’s books and she has been giving new books to me ever since. This also gave me an excuse to revisit my childhood favorites – books that most of you have never heard of “The Magic Pudding; The Adventures of Cuddlepot and Snugglepie and The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek. Or ask your kids, grandkids or friends’ kids which ones they enjoy most. Read them together. ‘It is always fun to hear the enthusiastic responses of children to creative words and images. At a recent baby shower I attended the only gifts that were asked for were books from our childhood. It was an absolute delight to hear people share the books that still impact their lives and provide a special glow of memory and to their lives.  
  • Spend time with kids – we all need kids in our lives. Not only do they help us have fun but they ask difficult questions that encourage us to let go of our pretentious and often unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. Sometimes their questions lead us to some deep soul searching of our own. One of my friends goes on regular play dates with her nieces and nephews with the determination to do everything they do. As a result she has jumped in puddles, ran through leaves, swung on swings and made angels in the snow. She has rediscovered the joy of play and finds her life more joy filled as a result.  
  • Reconnect to your senses – kids view the world through all their senses, but we adults often limit ourselves to sight and sound. Even these senses have very confining borders. Go on a nature walk. Rediscover the joy of smells, the wonder of textures, the delight of sunlight through trees. Using our senses opens us to a God of delight and rejoicing who invites us to relax, to sit in contentment and wonder, or allow ourselves to be distracted by the beauty of a butterfly.

What could you do to open yourself to childlike wonder? Would you like to plan a play date, go for an awe and wonder walk or just  sit and enjoy the beauty and wonder of God. 


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