When I was a child I threw myself at life. Literally I flung myself over cliffs and down precipitous bike hills. I splashed and crashed in raging rivers. Heedless wonder dominated my days. One of my favorite thrills was to climb tall, young cottonwood trees, grasp the top, and leap into the Mile High air wondering if the tree would lower me to the ground safely. They did—mostly. Elevator trees, we named them.
I woke to wonder fresh everyday. I thought I’d live forever. Or more realistically, death never came within a hundred miles of my mind. And heaven? When each blue sky Colorado day is an eternity, why bother with some place promised in the clouds? Heaven was here and now and as real as the blood gushing from one more childish flesh wound!
Even when I started experiencing seizures from a fractured skull, piled up serious medical complications, and later broke my left leg from literally throwing myself from a cliff, I never doubted my ability to recover and endanger my life again.
That’s not to say there were not spankings and scoldings and troubles galore. My dad made me eat spinach! But these pot-holes seemed minor and part of the package.
“Won’t your mom kill you if you do this?”
Children and the Kingdom of Wonder
How do you wake wonder in life?
Some say this hunger for wonder is immaturity and ignorance. And surely this is partially true. I was both immature and ignorant. I have the scars to prove it. But what if it is equally true that when young, we are still so close to God’s creative work in the womb that we naturally still wear wonder like a freshly painted masterpiece with the Master’s wet brush strokes still showing?
When Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” he did not mean only going to heaven at the end of life. He meant now!
He also said, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” In other words, close, within reach. The kingdom is open to children by God’s grace and because they retain a natural sense of wonder and belief.
In the movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Lucy stumbles out of the wardrobe into Narnia with pine trees laden with sparkling snow and silence as deep as heaven itself. She believes the wonder before her.
Though I did not know of Jesus as a child, heaven was naturally near. And even in my teens, after life became more a burden than a romp, when Jesus finally spoke up, it was like hearing the echo of a familiar voice.
When Life Dulls the Edge of Wonder
I know not all children experience life this way. This reality breaks my heart. And God’s. My father died when I was eleven and life became more like a labyrinth of sorrow than a museum of wonder. But the capacity for kingdom wonder is always there. It often bursts in like a vagrant shard of sun penetrating dark clouds.
Even in these days of fear and masked faces and hearts, I’ve wondered at people’s eyes. Some work desperately to reveal their veiled smile as a glint in their brown, blue, or green eyes. What wonderful thing have you seen and heard in these hard times? Whatever it was for you, it is God’s kingdom breaking through. Be a child again and grasp the wispy top of it and jump!
The Waking of Wonder
And after sixty-four years of a good, but often difficult life, I find the appreciation for wonder returning. This began in earnest after my 2015 heart attack. For me the fear, pain, and sorrow of that event began to wake me to wonder blooming fresh again. If death is so close, life can be too! Again I began to believe I’d live forever, just now in a different way.
It’s as if being closer to either end of life gives one a built in geiger counter for God’s presence. I’m not throwing myself from trees and cliffs but I am throwing myself into the wonder of worms and hummingbirds and smiles and conversations and coffee and beer and hikes and brown trout on the end of my line. I laugh more than I have in years, especially with The Redheaded-Wildflower at our puppy, Sir Winston.
But you don’t have to be a child or a codger to experience God’s wonderful kingdom. Let God wake the child in you again. The child’s still there.
“Come to me,” Jesus invited. His hands are open before you. Take them.
Think like a child. Read a favorite children’s story. Take a walk for wonder not exercise. Play with a child and let the child lead. Dream. Wade. Wander. Imagine something.
Pray this prayer.
God of wonder,
Draw our downcast eyes up and beyond the horizon of fear and trouble we see constantly before us. Wake us again to child-like wonder. Let the glorious dreams we once had be reborn in our hearts. Uncross our arms folded across our chests in self-protection that we may reach freely for your hand, your kingdom.
Touch us tenderly, like a fresh spring morning breeze. Silence the blaring noise and open your Word to us that truth may once again prevail in our hearts and minds. Speak poems and stories and art to us again. Rouse us to see the beauty in others. Enliven us to glimpse you in the flotsam of each day.
Draw near to those whose stone-like lives have ground their wonder to dust. Re-animate it.
Fill the children and child-like with wonder and your Spirit, especially those who are unprotected, unfed, and are or feel unloved. Protect them, feed them, love them. Let your loving protection burst through into their lives like a bolt of lightning. Give them long hope. They are who you call us to be like. Make it true. And use us who are regaining our sense of wonder to give wonder away.