Return to Wonder

| |

Throughout history, human beings have been struck by the wonder of mysteries we do not fully understand. The blazing sun appears and disappears without fail, driven by an unseen, eternal locomotion. Rain falls from heaven. Babies are conceived and born. Life is full of miracles.

I think of all the times when I was on a boat as a child, fishing with my father. I would brace my chest against the aluminum ridge of the vessel's edge and stare into the murk, transfixed.

Mysterious things lay latent in those depths, evidenced by the slick, gasping, hook-jawed creatures we withdrew after patient baiting. I wondered what else the lake might hold. A sunken boat? A boot? A gargantuan sturgeon who might swallow my boy-body whole?

Gingerly I would push the tip of my forefinger into the surface of the dark liquid. Taut-nerved and enchanted, I spent hours provoking any lurking monster below.

Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.

—Annie Dillard

As human beings began to understand complexity, we declared that we had found the realities behind the mysteries. We reduced the sun to a mechanical, looping ball of hot gas. The Bible became fiction. We invented vaccinations and movable type, yet bleached God's world of its color. We determined a thing's value by the use we could make of it. Wordsworth saw this, lowered his eyes, and muttered, "We murder to dissect."

I remember studying RNA replication at Calvin College. I watched awestruck as these strands, spiraled like pasta (why?), unzipped and matched themselves to proteins, spinning shut once the orders were delivered. I realized that a kaleidoscope of microscopic ribbons spin open and shut inside me. I am alive, able to sing songs and have friends, because of their dance.

We have not eliminated wonder entirely, but we have certainly marginalized it. Our analytic arrogance has squelched the process of taking delight in what we do not understand. Yet wonder can still be found if we look at things with childlike eyes.

Thankfully, there is no edge to anything. Small things are made of smaller things, tiny things are woven of the even tinier. If the smallest units of life are spinning atoms, then all the world's sidewalks ripple and heave like the surface of an ocean.

Ask the most learned scientist, "What is reality really?" He will beg for a glass of water, and his wandering postulations will begin to sound like a 4-year-old explaining where babies come from.

I want to pull wonder back to the center, back to the exhilaration of dipping my finger in the lake, back to angels suddenly appearing over flocks at night, back till it encompasses everything. We were right all along. The world is steeped in unknowns and thick with miracles.

During moments of despair, I chide myself to remember Annie Dillard's realization that nothing shines brighter than what it reflects. All this beauty is the canvas of an even more beautiful God. And suddenly I am bursting.

About the Author

Simon Cunningham is a church planter for Roots Church, Seattle, Wash.

See comments (1)


Beautiful piece Simon! Very well thought usual :-)