We live in a deeply traumatized world. COVID has changed all of us and the ways we interact with our congregations and communities. Most of us are living in a state of constant anxiety and stress. These last few months have shaken us to the core. Many are filled with fear and uncertainty. We know the future will require change, but our trauma makes us lose meaning and trust in the world and our fear paralyses us making us resistant to the very adaptations that enable us to survive with resilience and joy.
How do we help those we serve find strength and stability in the midst of these challenges? We all see that we need new tools to help us respond to our current state of being and there is lots of advice out there on soul care, but one tool that I think is both over-looked and under-rated is the gift of wonder.
The Gift of Wonder
Wonder changes our approach to life. It opens us to surprise, expectation, anticipation, unpredictability, celebration and mystery and enables us to imagine new life and new beginnings. It moves our actions from individualism and materialism towards community and needs of those around us encouraging us to be more caring and compassionate people. We all need a daily dose of awe and wonder.
Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple says, “I think the foundation of everything is wonder.” I agree with her. I believe she has grasped a reality few of us acknowledge – the wonder of God’s presence is in us, around us, embracing and comforting us, and available at every moment in the midst of both pain and joy. It is a beautiful gift from God. Yet we underestimate its power to transform us, relieve our stress and heal us from all forms of trauma.
I love Matthew 18:3 in The Passion Translation. “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in…”
The wide-eyed wonder of a child. Can you imagine looking around you every day with the wide-eyed wonder of a child seeing everything as if it were the first time, gasping in awe at the beauty of trees and flowers or the face of a beloved child or parent. Can you imagine looking deep within yourself at the incredible act of your own creation? All of us are made in the image of God and every creature has a spark of divine life within it – now that really is awe inspiring.[Wonder] is a beautiful gift from God. Yet we underestimate its power to transform us, relieve our stress and heal us from all forms of trauma. ~ Christine Sine Click To Tweet
Depletion and Re-Wonderment
The blessings of awe and wonder greet us at every turn, but often we are too busy or too distracted to notice them. We all live in a world that is incredible, it shimmers with the glory of God, but we have lost our ability to appreciate that wonder and therefore to discover the healing power it holds. In his fascinating book, Landmarks, Robert McFarlane suggests we have not only lost our ability to appreciate wonder but we have also lost the language to express it. In the recent update to the Children’s Oxford Dictionary he informs us, some words were taken out and others added. All those removed had to do with nature and all those added had to do with technology. We have stunned the world out of wonder he says. We suffer from awe and wonder depletion.
McFarlane calls for the re-wonderment of the world and as we move forward in our fight against both the pandemic and the injustice of systemic racism, this is very much what we need. We don’t just need re-wonderment of the world but re-wonderment of our view of God and a re-wonderment of our impressions of the people we share the planet with too.
The Wonder of God
There are three dimensions to awe and wonder that we and our congregations need to be inspired by.
- First, there is the wonder of a God who is hidden in every aspect of creation
- Second, there is the wonder of God hidden deep within our soul slowly transforming us and making us whole, and
- Third, the wonder of a God whose nature is laid bare in the pain and suffering of our world.
When was the last time you sat in awe of God’s greatness or jumped in excitement and shouted your praises to God believing that God still performs miracles of provision and healing?
Over the last few months I have developed what I call my awe and wonder routine to help me focus more deliberately on our truly awe inspiring God and what God is doing in the world. Entering into wonder as an intentional daily practice has changed me in ways I never anticipated, filling me with joy and a delight in life I never expected, especially in the midst of our current traumatic situation.
Awe and Wonder Walks
After my morning devotions, my husband Tom and I go on what I call our awe and wonder walk. These have become the mainstay of my spiritual life. They give me peace in the midst of chaos, and strength when I feel overwhelmed.
As we walk I focus intentionally on the awe and wonder of what I see. I name the things that fill me with awe, and joy. At the moment it is the tomatoes slowly ripening in many front yards as well as the new chalk drawings where kids have been playing on the sidewalks. I savor these sights and my response to them as well as the revelation of God in the midst of these. When I get home I often find a prayer or a poem bubbles up inside me as a response.
This doesn’t mean I naively see only good things around me, but I do find that the delight of these walks makes me receptive to the pain and suffering of our world without succumbing to compassion fatigue and the scarring of the trauma others are experiencing.
One of the most awe inspiring aspects of our Creator is how deeply he shares our pain. This is a God who is not distant and unconcerned. I sit in the midst of my pain. I ache and I grieve and sit in wonder of the fact that God grieves with me. I am inspired as I gaze with awe and wonder at hospital workers risking their lives for people they never knew, grocery clerks still working in spite of the risk, migrant workers producing our produce with little recognition or appreciation. In these people I see God reaching out and I wonder, “How can I respond?”
So I would suggest that you encourage your congregations today to look back over the last week or month with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. What, in this time of lockdown has inspired and awed you – about God, about the world in which we live, about the people you have met and worked with, about the cultures you have interacted with? Where do you see God entering into your pain and the pain of your communities?
There is no limit to the aspects of this world that can help us experience awe and wonder and provide us with the tools we need to better engage in the pain and suffering of those around us. We do live in a wonderful world, with a wonderful God. All we need to do is to open our eyes and take notice.
For more information on the Wonder in the Trauma Healing Process, check out this free webinar with Christine Sine this Wednesday, September 23rd @ 11am-12pm Pacific Time.
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