Recapturing the Gift of Wonder

This morning while listening to the audiobook of Brennan Manning‘s The Ragamuffin Gospel, I was struck by a particular segment which I had to record in written form and share with you (below).  As I listened I was reminded of the time my friend and fellow worship leader Casey Frye were discussing the job of a worship leader and how to define and describe the position.  He stated that we are “stewards of The Reveal.”  I’m not sure if he was capitalizing the T and R in his mind, but since I’m writing this down I get to make that call.   Worship leaders have the opportunity to reveal the mysteries and wonder of God – not like a magician (or anti-magician) spoiling the wonder of an illusion by explaining the trick behind it and giving away the magician’s secret, but rather worship leaders get to display and highlight the mystery itself.  There is no explaining the secret or spoiling the wonder of God.  His mysteries go deeper than the human mind could ever truly grasp.  Worship leaders just get to reintroduce people to the mystery.  The good news is, it never gets old!

I want to also be clear that it is actually only the Holy Spirit who can reveal the character and truth of God which inspires the wonder within us.  But worship leaders are tasked with, and have been given the incredible joy of, creating an environment that helps people be open to hearing the Spirit’s whispers.  

My personal definition of worship includes the statement that worship is the natural response that occurs when one comes into the presence of God and encounters the truth of his character and love.  It is awe and wonder at its core.  Inspired by one of my favorite musical artists, Andrew Peterson, I have come to state my personal mission as “helping people encounter God’s truth in the most beautiful and powerful and effective way possible.”

Our Western society needs more wonder.  We need more awe and mystery in our lives.

Here is the excerpt from The Ragamuffin Gospel:

A Philistine will stand before a Claude Monet painting and pick his nose; a person filled with wonder will stand there fighting back the tears. By and large our world has lost its sense of wonder.  We’ve grown up.  We no longer catch our breath at the sight of a rainbow or the scent of a rose as we once did.  We have grown bigger and everything else small, less impressive.  We get blasé and worldly wise and sophisticated.  

We no longer run our fingers through water, shout at the stars or make faces at the moon. Water is H2O, the stars have been classified and the moon is not made of green cheese. Thanks to satellite TV and jet planes we can visit places once only accessible to a Columbus, Balboa and other daring explorers.  

There once was a time when a thunderstorm caused grown men to shudder and feel small.  But God is being edged out of his world by science. The more we know about meteorology, the less we are inclined to pray during a thunderstorm. Airplanes now fly above, below and around them. Satellites reduce them to photographs. What ignominy.  If a thunderstorms can experience ignominy. Reduced from Theophany to nuisance.

Heschel says that today we believe that all enigmas can be solved. As Samuel Johnson was once, “wonder is nothing but the effect of novelty on ignorance.”  Certainly the new can amaze us. A space shuttle, the latest computer game, the softest diaper.  Until tomorrow, till the new becomes old.  Till yesterday’s wonder is discarded or taken for granted.  Small wonder Rabbi Heschel concluded, “as civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines.”  

We get so preoccupied with ourselves, the words we speak, the plans and projects we conceive that we become immune to the glory of creation. We barely notice the cloud passing over the moon, or the dew clinging to the rose petals. The ice on the pond comes and goes.  The wild blackberries ripen and wither. The blackbird nests outside our window, but we don’t see her.  We avoid the cold and the heat. We refrigerate ourselves in summer and entomb ourselves in plastic in winter.  We rake up every leaf as fast as it falls. We are so accustomed to buying prepackaged meats and fish and fowl at supermarkets, we never think and blink about the bounty of God’s creation. We grow complacent and lead practical lives. We miss the experience of awe, reverence and wonder. Our world is saturated with grace and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in Spirit, but in matter.  In a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water.  In a rainbow after a summer storm. In a gentle doe streaking across a forest.  In Beethoven’s ninth symphony. In a child licking a chocolate ice cream. In a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover his loving presence in the world around us.


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