“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
G. K. Chesterton
Is there anyone who would deny that this world is an awe-inspiring place?
Is there a person among us who could gaze upon a fiery sunset, or feel the spray at the edge of a thundering waterfall, or be greeted by the playful song of the birds at dawn, and not feel, just for a moment, that this world is startlingly beautiful?
Life is full of those little sparkling moments that remind us, ever so briefly, of what this world is made of. Many people spend their lives chasing after these fleeting moments, relentlessly pursuing that passing connection with the life behind the veil. Thrill-seekers, adventurers, travellers- in some form or another, most of us search for those little moments. Every so often, we find one, and we grasp it tightly to our hearts and seek to capture it forever. It’s the moment when you light up the Christmas tree; the sound of waves crashing on the shore; a smell that brings you back to your childhood. These are the moments that remind our cold hearts of a world we’ve nearly forgotten. These are the wonders that crop up all around us, and there is no shortage of these moments.
But try as we might, we cannot capture these flashes of remembrance. We cannot prolong an instant of wonder. There is nothing with which to fill the gap between these brief moments; and so we go on pursuing new wonders, new moments, new reminders. And all the while, the life we live in between these moments stands empty and dry.
We were not meant to live this way. The human experience was not designed to be a primarily aimless journey interrupted by quick flashes of meaning. We were not built to live on shards of wonder. We were created to carry wonder in our eyes, and find it all around us every day. Those little sparks we catch from time to time ought to serve as a reminder: we have forgotten what life was meant to be.
From the beginning, God designed us to enjoy His person and His creation. We were designed to live in the midst of a glorious creation, united with an infinitely more glorious Creator. But this design was broken long ago; and the breaking of this world was our doing. We severed our connection to the source of wonder, and in so doing, we starved ourselves and snuffed out the lasting beauty of creation. We are living today in the broken remnants of a shattered world; the burnt-out hull of a terrible shipwreck. Every now and again, we find a small piece of the world that once was; bits of treasure drifting among the wreckage. But rather than being reminded of what we were designed for and what we once knew, we live as if these shards, these broken bits, are the ultimate purpose for which we are to live. We chase after them with abandon, and seek to gather as many of these glimpses of a fallen world as we can carry. But as long as it is broken wonders that we seek, the longings of our hearts will never be satisfied.
The truth is, no number of wonders will ever fill the void in a heart that was designed to be surrounded by such wonders for eternity. Beautiful things can’t bring us joy. It is what we’re meant to bring to the beautiful things that should change us. This world does not lack beauty. It is not in want of spectacles. What our aching hearts desire is not another reminder of what we’ve lost; what our hearts need is to remember what it was to be a child.
When we are young and our eyes are yet new, everything is beautiful. Every blade of grass is a thing of beauty. To a child, the world is stunning. When we grow old, what changes? Certainly not the grass. It is only our eyes that change. We live as if the fact that we’ve seen the grass many times makes the grass less beautiful. We become “grown-ups,” and we take the world in stride. That which once was a miracle becomes nothing but monotony; not because the world changes, but because we do.
It was not merely a publicity stunt when Jesus called the little children to His side. He did not speak in jest when He said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as them. When Jesus spoke of childlike faith, He did not mean a faith that is unintelligent. He did not mean a faith that is immature. He certainly did not mean a faith that is unfounded. On the contrary; the faith of which Jesus spoke so highly is the faith that sees the world the way it was meant to be seen: a testament to the glory of the Creator, and an adventure in which we are to carry the flag of our Savior. Jesus calls those who follow Him to see the world through the eyes of a child; to remember that every blade of grass is a miracle, and every new day is a new adventure.
Every once in a while, I think it’s important for us all to follow that second star to the right and revisit the Neverland of childhood. This is not a Neverland that exults in immaturity or foolishness; it is not a Neverland that seeks to avoid responsibility. It is a Neverland where we seek to escape the dangers of being a “grown-up” when it comes to our perception of creation. I am personally rather convinced that it was the Enemy who came up with the use of the term “grown-up” to refer to one of the most dangerous and un-Christian states of mind imaginable. The Enemy loves to apply pleasant-seeming terms to incredibly dangerous things: greed becomes ambition, selfishness becomes empowerment, and a disregard for the magnificence of God’s everyday miracles becomes “grown-up.”
Let us not become this sort of a grown-up. Let us never fall into the trap that has been so cleverly laid before us. To be a person of God means to hold fast to these truths: that the world is a place of startling beauty, broken by our self-centered sin, carrying glimmers of a past perfection in the midst of present defilement, awaiting restoration in the finished work of Christ, and ultimately composed of everyday miracles that ought never to be overlooked. Life is an adventure, rivaling the greatest of the fairy-tales, and the day-to-day ups and downs are pieces of a puzzle often too large to perceive. But the puzzle is there, and the children know it. As we teach our children to know who God has revealed Himself to be, let us learn from them how to see Him all around us. In the fairy-tales, anything can be enchanted; in God’s real world, everything is enchanted and animated by His living word. Nothing is dead; nothing is empty; nothing is monotonous unless we close our eyes and imagine it to be so. Only sin is devoid of this liveliness, because sin is devoid of life.
Don’t live your life chasing fleeting wonders; go back to the source of true, eternal Wonder. Don’t seek to forget the “empty” parts of life as you chase after moments of fulfillment; return to the spring of living water which can fill the “empty” parts to overflowing. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col. 3:17)