Sometimes We Need to Step Back and Say, “Wow!”

“In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
The ruthless will vanish,
the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down”
Isaiah 29:17-20

When I was 12 years old, my family made our annual Christmas trek to our original home of Southern California from our newish home of suburban Chicago. I was glad to escape Chicago’s subzero temperatures and the darkness that descended at 3:30 each afternoon. We took an afternoon to go to Santa Monica: the pier, the arcades, the giant Ferris wheel that scoops you far above the ocean. The day was beautiful, and we were walking back to the car when we noticed an eerie silence around us. No one else was walking; gone was the usual bustle of a beach boardwalk. Turning around, we saw why.

Painted across the sky was one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen. The people near the beach were silhouettes against the horizon — thin, dark figures captivated by the end of the day. The water was a dark blue without a hint of gray, and the sky was dozens of layers of sherbet: pink, orange, peach, rose. For five minutes that winter night, scores of strangers stood together and watched the earth turn with absolutely staggering results. We Wonder is a natural were bound by wonder.

In Isaiah 29 the prophet is warning God’s people of the consequences of turning against the Lord. Things aren’t looking so good for Jerusalem, but instead of foretelling gloom and destruction, God does something so different, so strange, that it must have blown the Jews away when they first heard it spoken. “Once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

One of the best parts of wonder is that it is the result of thwarted expectations. At its core, wonder is unfair — it is a grace distributed to the people of God by a God who delights in giving it to us. It would have been easy for God to create a world in which the world turned around the sun and the colors were absorbed by the atmosphere so we went from white to black, from day to night, without any fanfare. And not every sunset is so spectacular as that night’s, but some are even more so. God has created the world to astound us with wonder upon wonder, and all that wonder is meant to draw us in to him. Part of the goodness of wonder is that it brings with it an awareness of the nearness of God. We see more clearly his presence, his kingdom, and participate in it more fully when we marvel at what he has created. If to worship God is to approach him, to wonder at God is to be conscious of his nearness.

It is, in my experience, so characteristic of God to not do the expected and, when we are far from him, rather than punish us give us grace, wonder instead of retribution, true wisdom in place of arrogance.

It is a wonder that we have minds to think, minds to read and comprehend and pray and argue and discuss. It is a wonder that the thunderhead clouds sit waiting for hours on end, until they are perfectly full, and show off to us in the meantime the greatest wonder of all, the glory of a God who thought of a world like this for people like us.

Wonder isn’t about emotion, though it may elicit an emotional response. It isn’t about forced awe, either. Wonder is a natural outgrowth of gratitude, and it is itself a form or prayer to the God who created a world worthy of such wonder. We can find it in nature, in a great meal, in another person — these are all places where God’s goodness is reflected for us to enjoy and participate in. Socrates said, “Wisdom begins in wonder,” and I would add that wonder begins in the character of God.

— Laura Ortberg Turner. Drawn from the NIV Bible for Women.

What conditions help you to be “prone to wonder?” To be alone? With friends? In nature? How can you arrange your life to maximize your wonder at God? Post a comment below!

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