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Wonder Beyond Fear April 18, 2009

Posted by dan snyder in Christianity, Devotional Journal, God.

‘Wonder’ is critical to the life of the church. In our postmodern crisis ‘wonder’ reigns among issues like ‘truth’ and ‘love’; but modern concepts like technocratic thinking, industrialism and capitalism have rendered ‘wonder’ irrelevant. ‘Wonder’ and ‘play’ (the soil in which wonder grows) do not contribute well to the gross national product. Even in church, this matters more than some would be willing to admit.

Scientific Discovery Through Visualization

Scientific Discovery Through Visualization

When wonder is missing from a church – and by ‘church’ I include those people within who participate in the life of faith – there are at least three consequences I have observed.

First, the loss of wonder reduces life to what can be measured and understood scientifically. There is no longer the sense that the universe – which does not only include undiscovered planets, but family members and grass – is full of mystery. People stop looking for golden apples on trees, because they have been told this is scientifically impossible. Liturgy and people made in God’s image become familiar and boring. Bible study becomes about filling in blanks with right answers ad infinitum. When the notion that the mysterious cannot be found in one church, people shop around seeking the extraordinary elsewhere because their hearts long to be amazed. Extreme missions trips or sensationalized worship experiences are popular ways to fill the void.

The second consequence of the loss of wonder in the church is ungratefulness. People who are no longer astonished that they breathe, that the sun rises, that they make it home safely from work, stop being thankful for such wonders. The practice of ‘un-thanksgiving’ nurtures self-aggrandizement giving way to a sense of entitlement leading to voracious greed. With so much ‘stuff’ to protect, these people feel out of control and that the world is no longer a safe place in which to live. Fear breeds obsessive control in the form of laws that cannot possibly be kept. People who cannot keep the law (especially those established to burgeon the church) eventually despise the frailty of humanity in themselves and others. Rather than developing loving character, an ungrateful church produces mean and hateful people with an urgency that leaves them no time to play.

A third consequence of the loss of wonder is emptiness. People not only jump from church to church, they become spiritual experience junkies. And like drug addicts, they are never satisfied and forever empty. This is why ‘play’ in and of itself cannot save such people. Boredom eventually characterizes their church experience anywhere they go. For some boredom leads to a ‘neurotic apocalyptic’ – doomsday is just around the corner. For others boredom develops into ‘overconfident wisdom’ – they know the mind of God better than God does.

I agree that the older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder. And I also believe only God is big enough to fill that void.apple0922

Only when the church exercises disciplined attention toward God as revealed in nature and scripture will character be its pursuit and restful trust its posture. Without this ‘lingering’, the church will be like the person who quickly dips his teabag into hot water and is disappointed because the drink still taste like hot water. He then becomes frustrated because the directions implied that submersing the teabag would result in a rich cup of tea.

Once the God of Wonders becomes the pursuit of the church, deep growth follows. People will understand that, believe it or not, it’s okay to be human – that is our place in God’s universe. And we will once again see that the world is a safe place to be because we know the God who oversees it.

What have you ‘wondered’ over this week?