Wonder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t force wonder. That is the conclusion that came to me today as I struggled again with a certain dullness that has permeated my life lately. I blew dandelion seeds and thought about writing here about wonder and child likeness versus stagnation and immaturity. I read a book on the slumber of Christianity and how we’ve lost our hope. But as much as I would like to say I have an easy fix I cannot because I will not lie. Instead I will trade being and example for being honest And I will say: “The truth is I can’t force wonder.”

I can yearn for and strive to attain wonder; I can covet it and envy those who have it, but I can’t make myself excited and joyful about anything. From nature to the Good News…those same old things fall upon dimmed eyes and unhearing ears. There is nothing new under the sun. Even when I believe something to be exciting and earth shattering I can’t force  my heart to leap at it.  I don’t know the cure either. How do I become truly excited about those things that mean the most to me? How do I summon joy and happiness when I really should be feeling them? I can’t fake life, or at least I won’t, though I wish I did wonder at the world.

So I pray, and I hope with a stubborn hope that is void of emotion. I get frustrated, but I carry on hoping and pleading for a breath of fresh air. I know that what I believe is true, and I trust it wholeheartedly. It’s a sad day when truth no longer stirs a heart. Am I the only one? I need to know, do you have a cure? I have searched desperately, and please don’t say this is just a phase. I’ve been saying that for too long, and I don’t believe it anymore. The is not just a phase of monotony–it’s lasted too long to be just that. But there must be some escape.

I know, I know… I’m just another stupid fool asking the internet to solve my problems. As if! I do believe in God.. I believe He gives us enough. I believe those words “…life, and life abundantly…” . But I also believe that I can’t force the wonder. So, that’s where I am right now. I shall ask you again not to let this hold you back–I also believe that God is the best thing that ever happened to me–my walk with God is not about emotion. But, this is where I am right now. Maybe it is a phase (watch me contradict myself), God does allow valleys.  Maybe they’re easy to talk about but never seem as long and deep as when you are going through them.

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Categories: My Life, Ponderings, rants | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Wonder

  1. I can’t speak to wondering. But I can speak to going through a valley of emotionlessness and climbing out to the top – more like being lifted out – and going “WOW! God is Awesome!” And being moved by and moving with emotion. For at least 2 years of high school and around 2 years of college, I stubbornly held to the Truth, but was told I had no joy and knew it to be so. Four years is a long “phase.”
    You ask, “I can’t fake life, or at least I won’t… do you have a cure?” I wish the Christian life worked the same way for everyone – “Experiencing this? Do this – problem solved!” But it doesn’t. That’s why we have to share our stories. One small piece of them may help another come into the light. How did I “escape” my dungeon of despair? I basically had to fall – confess a sin I just couldn’t shake – come to terms with the fact that no matter how much I strove to be obedient to God, I COULDN’T DO IT and had no chance of being a good Christian, approved by God. Oh I knew I was saved without pleasing Him – but I was supposed to strive to be perfect now, right? Work out my salvation and all that? 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” Yes, we are to be blameless in our day to day lives. But GOD is the one who is faithful – we fail. HE will do it – we may try, but we’ll fail. Sanctification doesn’t work too much differently from salvation. We still need to rely on grace and God doing it. I had never got that. Once I did – took me out of the way – He filled me with His Spirit to overflow with love for people and joy in my Lord’s love. Just ask Him to take you out of the equation and fill up that space with HIM. It may not happen until He deems it the right time. Be faithful in the meantime. His plan is for your good.
    I am now out of the cliff-walled chasm and onto His path of trying to love people as He loved – but that doesn’t mean I’m always full of hope and wonder. More often not. But it’s like my heart started beating for the very first time – it’s not as strong as others, but it’s going. When I go and Worship God – not just pray or read my Bible – Worship with heart and mind (spirit and truth), I regain hope and excitement in the goal of my faith and renewed energy in striving for it (a relationship with God that blesses others). When I go to Him confessing I CAN’T DO IT – when I boast in my weakness – He gladly takes over for the Glory of His name.

    • Thank you, first of all, for sharing your story. You are right, four years is a long phase. I can only hope mine won’t be that long. Hopefully I will come to a realization (if that is my “cure”) soon. And amen to the scripture that you quoted! God remains faithful though we are not. I can’t even begin to describe how much the comments to this post have encouraged me. Thank you again!

  2. Wow, that blog post you linked to was good. It, and the “12 Things to Tell Your Daughter” were both excellent. The author makes really important points, points a lot of people never figure out their entire lives. I am very glad to see someone writing those truths.

    (As an aside: The design of that blog, and the writing on that blog, makes me feel very small about my blog. Why can’t I be that professional? Waah!)

    Now, as to the issue you raise. I must first confess that I am struggling with the same sort of thing, I think, though in a slightly different guise. I wouldn’t use the term “wonder” (or its lack) to describe my maliase, but it is the same sort of problem insofar as I feel like I am emotionally not in the place I want/should be as a Christian and it grieves me. For me to admonish/suggest things to you is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. But since when has that ever stopped me, right?

    You are so right that you can’t force wonder. Very good observation. I also found the following observation telling, when you said, “I can yearn for and strive to attain wonder; I can covet it and envy those who have it” and that makes me wonder. (Argh, pardon the pun!) Is God trying to deal with a bad preoccupation with wonder that is in you–that thing you covet and envy. Could it be that somehow, just a bit, your gaze has slipped from the object of wonder (Jesus) to be focused on the wonder itself?

    Now wonder itself is a good thing. But any good emotion can become a bad thing if we allow it to supplant the God toward whom the emotion is supposed to be directed. Maybe God is looking to teach you to let go of wonder, to stop seeking wonder for itself, so that you cling only to Jesus, seek only Jesus, and find complete satisfaction in Jesus–regardless of whether Jesus gives you wonder or not. Like I said, this rock can be appropriately thrown in my direction as well. Am I letting a particular emotional state I desire supplant finding sufficency and satisifaction in Jesus as he has already given himself in my life?

    It is good to pour out the anguish of our souls in prayer, and God will answer in his time. But the answer can be so different than we thought we needed, and yet exactly what we needed. (And the wonder that realization can provoke is a wonder indeed!)

    The blog post you referenced rightly points out the problem with telling people to “be an example.” It seems to me that applies equally well to the idea of seeking to “be filled with wonder.” Being an example is great, and being filled with wonder is great. But we don’t seek to be an example–we seek Jesus and allow him to use us as an example as he sees fit. And we shouldn’t seek wonder–we should seek Jesus and recieve the wonder he gives.

    When your heart aches for wonder, when your soul longs for it like a parched desert, when your very innermost being cries out–I know what I have said might not feel like much help. It doesn’t fill up your longing, or answer your need. Theological facts can feel so painfully dry when what we long for is the tender touch of the Master’s hand. I know…..but from way over here all I have are dry facts 😦

    Allow me to throw one more monkey-wrench in the gears. What is wonder? I am familiar with the emotional sensations that we associate with wonder…but I think we may limit wonder by our emotional conception. At least, I think someone can read something, and ponder something, and be filled with wonder about it without necessarily experiencing the emotional thrill so commonly associated with wonder. Is wonder perhaps deeper, richer, and more subtle than we allow?

    Perhaps God has given you wonder and you refuse to accept wonder on His terms. I’m not saying that is so. I’m just turning things around to look at it from the other side. It is possible God is withholding wonder to teach you something. Or perhaps He has given you wonder under a guise that you do not recognize and He is seeking to teach you to open your eyes.

    I don’t have the answers. The best I can really say is that as I pray earnestly for God to give me the emotional state that I want I also ponder the thought that it may well be the emotional state that we want in our lives is rarely the emotional state God looks to give. (But I really, really, want him to give me the emotional state that I want, and I pray…) If we look for the emotional state that (in some sense) makes us comfortable, perhaps God looks to put us in the emotional state that makes us most uncomfortable so that we will depend wholly upon him instead of resting in our emotional state.

    You look back with yearning on the state of wonder you once had. But what if that was spiritually immature wonder, and mature wonder feels entirely different? Again, I’m not saying it is so. I’m throwing out the pondering for consideration. God wants you to have a proper wonder of him, but what if the wonder he would have you grow into doesn’t feel quite like the wonder you recall as the girl of yester-year? You may have not yet grown into that more mature wonder, but would you be willing to stop looking back on your old wonder and start looking forward to the new wonder God would show?

    Another possibility to consider. Have you considered the possibility that you are burnt out? I suggest you consider it. The suggestion is based some on my own experience, and some on what I have seen my sister Titi go through. Utter emotional or physical or mental exhaustion can sap our spiritual state, and our wonder. Worry can do the same thing. Reading between the lines, I’m going to guess that you’ve had an intense school year. Again, reading between the lines, I’m going to guess that your future (plans/decisions/path) weigh on your thoughts. I am going to hazard the guess that these things may be greatly sapping your wonder. What if you need to let go?

    I am not sure wonder can be distinguished from peace. I think not. When I think about times I have been most at peace in God they may not have been thrilling highs of wonder, but in a quiet way I think those times of deep peace have been a very deep wonder as well and so I am led to suggest that perhaps we should not seperate wonder from peace in our thoughts. If we have peace in God then by nature we have wonder. If we do not have peace, we cannot have wonder.

    I am speaking from my own experience here which may be for good or ill, but perhaps what you need to do to regain wonder is to Give Up on your future. Wash your hands of the matter. Return to the place where you are resting in utter peace for God to do whatever he wills with your future. Deliberately don’t make plans. (I don’t suggest doing that on a whim. What I am suggesting is that perhaps you pray about taking that course of action and seeing if God is revealing something in that regards.) Perhaps God is goading you to come to a place where you completely let go of your plans and being willing to wait in peace for God to act in his time. Live today resting totally in his hands. Give up all this trying. And if you reach that place, perhaps you will find wonder blossoming anew as you wait in breathless expectation for God to work wonders in your life, wonders beyond your dreams, beyond your imagining.

    Perhaps it is when we try to figure out God’s plans, and work them out for him in our lives, perhaps that is when we start losing the wonder of God’s plans.

    Maybe for you to find wonder again you have to utterly give up the reins to your life. Maybe it was in trying to grow up and become mature that you lost the wonder. Maybe its time to stop trying to figure out your future and live in wonder today.

    Since you follow my blog and have read my recent posts on the past wrestling of my own life I think it can be pretty easy to see how I could be simply imputing my own struggles and lessons into your situation. As such, what I have said might be entirely misguided. But then, God does work strange crossings of paths. Maybe my past experience is an apt word at this time in your life.

    I don’t know. God does.

    Just bouncing around thoughts. I will say I also find it very, very, discouraging when my emotional state is not what I want it to be, or think it should be, so I hear you on the discouragement over where you find yourself. As you indicate yourself, it does no good to pretend it isn’t discouraging. I don’t suggest you paste on a fake smile. But also in my life I feel I have seen that the answers we are so sure we need are typically not exactly the answers God intends to give. Keep looking, keep searching. God will give you wonder in his good time–but it may not come in exactly the shape you expected.

    I hope there is some encouragment in that.

    • Rundy,
      You can thank Nastya for leading me to that blog post. And, as to your side note, I didn’t really see her blog as more professional than yours, though it is different. One thing I liked about her blog design was the little pictures across the top. Very interesting/cool/attention getting. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

      You made a lot of good points here, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to address all of them, but I will speak to some. It was good to know I’m not alone. I’ve often thought that maybe 50% of American Christians are in the same boat one way or another. And what do we call our problem? Do we just ignore it?

      Taking eyes off Jesus…I’ve wrestled with weather or not that is the case. There must be something wrong, after all, but I don’t think that is it. Or maybe it is. After all we’re never focused completely on Jesus as we ought to be. At least almost never. And I know I’m more me focused than I should be, but aren’t we all. Not that that is a good excuse. I don’t know! I’ll end this paragraph with something that puts better words to my thoughts that I can which I ran across today… http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/stopped-needing-control/ .

      I like to think that I don’t seek wonder for it’s own ends, but that isn’t entirely true either. I love wonder passionately, not more than God of course, but what is all of the amazing secular music that we’ve been talking about and enjoying if not wonder for it’s own end? Or even books that evoke emotion for that matter. That fits well with Teman’s article about ascetics and despair, but I won’t go into that as I plan to visit that topic in my letter. (I really, really, really enjoyed that essay by the way.)

      “God will answer in His time.” That’s a whole other issue, but let it suffice to say that, yes I have been thinking about that as well. The passage in Daniel where the angel with the answer was delayed has been rolling around in my mind lately. And, of course I agree that God’s answers are not always yes. No and wait are a part of His answer vocabulary as well.

      Please know, that though these are “dry facts” and though the fact that these are that is a bit frustrating, they have helped. They’ve started the wheels a’rolling. The question of “What is wonder?” I feel is slightly less applicable, and since I want to respond to one of your three communications today I won’t delve into that except to say that I am pondering this as well. I can’t imagine this lack of emotion as being better than the passion of yesteryear, but I’m only seeing dimly as in a mirror. I could go on.

      I wouldn’t consider myself as burnt out as I have been in the past, but all of your guesses were straight on. I am finishing up a hard school year, and I am thinking about my future frequently. As to peace being equal to wonder I would disagree. I propose that wonder is a deep rooted part of peace, but the two are not necessarily synonymous.

      So finally, thank you for your encouragement. These words did achieve that intended purpose, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing them.

      • I’ve often thought that maybe 50% of American Christians are in the same boat one way or another. And what do we call our problem? Do we just ignore it?

        No, we definitely shouldn’t ignore it. But in the broader sense the problem is called “life” and 100% of Christians are in that boat, and to a certain measure we can’t fix that problem this side of the grave. That doesn’t mean we should just ignore the struggle, shoulder the load, and trudge drearily along. It is important to be honest about our burdens, and to share them appropriately, but in the broader sense of the “burdens of life” it is important to not lose sight of the fact that we won’t be done with the burdens until we are done with life. Thus, we should not be discouraged by the fact that our burdens don’t go away.

        In the narrow sense of particular problems, they have many names. “Apathy” and “Lack of Trust” are names given to two maliase, but it seems yours is of a slightly different flavor. “Lack of wonder” is a little vauge, which is why I threw out some possible particulars. By lack of wonder is the statement really, “I am exhuasted” or “I am discouraged” ….or something else? (Doesn’t seem like you can answer that at the present.)

        There must be something wrong, after all, but I don’t think that is it. Or maybe it is. After all we’re never focused completely on Jesus as we ought to be. At least almost never. And I know I’m more me focused than I should be, but aren’t we all. Not that that is a good excuse. I don’t know!” It is easy to boil it down to the statement of any problem to, “I am a sinner, that must be the problem!” While in the abstract that is true, (and it is where the unbeliever must start in coming to Christ) it is hardly particular to the specific needs of the moment for the Christian. The fact that we aren’t perfect in our following of Christ is a given. The question is, “What particular work is God doing in my life now?”

        I can’t answer that. Sometimes I wonder if we get a little too fixated on coming up with particular problems and solutions to those particular problems and forget to simply discuss our heart, and the confusing nature of our life, with God. Maybe rather than God trying to bring your attention to some particular problem He has put this burr under your saddle just to get you to slow down and spend more time seeking His face–period. No particular goal in mind, no fixed little problem in need of a neat little solution.

        Of course, on the other hand, the opposite could be true and you do have a particular issue, as Delightoverme shared about her experience. Either possibilty is real, and I’m not trying to push your thinking in one direction or the other.

        I like to think that I don’t seek wonder for it’s own ends, but that isn’t entirely true either. I love wonder passionately, not more than God of course, but what is all of the amazing secular music that we’ve been talking about and enjoying if not wonder for it’s own end? Or even books that evoke emotion for that matter.” There is nothing wrong with wonder. It is a great emotion, and should be enjoyed as much as God supplies it. But I guess I had thought your post was talking about wonder particularly as an orientation toward God, rather than the broader context of our orientation to the world as a whole.

        If we are talking about the world around us, and the creative efforts of people–sure, they can provoke wonder. But they can also provoke sadness, grief, anger, indignation, and many other feelings. None of those are better or worse than others. (I do not find the music we have been talking about to provoke only wonder–I find that to be a mixture of emtions) There are right occassions in life to feel wonder, anger, sadness, and so on. So as far as wonder as a reaction to the world around us–if someone said we need to be stuck in wonder at the world that would be like saying we need to be stuck in happy gear. Sometimes we are at a place in the world where it provokes wonder, other times we are at a place in the world that provokes sadness. The world around us changes. There is ample cause in God’s creation at all times for wonder, sadness, anger, and so forth. But we are finite beings, so on the whole we feel those emotions consecutively, not simultaneously–and there is a season for each. A person might prefer to be stuck in the “wonder” phase of relating to the world, (and who wants to experience sad periods!) but for all of us time will come to cycle through many other emtional relations to the world. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry, as Ecclesiastes says.

        So I guess there is a little different answer to your question(s) depending on whether the discussion is about wonder as relating to God directly, and wonder as relating to the unfolding creation around us.

        That fits well with Teman’s article about ascetics and despair, but I won’t go into that as I plan to visit that topic in my letter” Yeah, we probably better keep topics in their proper place. But I will say for myself I greatly enjoyed the overlap between N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl and The Asthetic of Despair. I was rather astonished to discover that, reading the book after I mailed the letter. (Wilson’s book arrived before Dekker’s, and so I ended up reading the entrie Tilt-A-Whirl on last Sunday.) I don’t know how recently you read Wilson’s book, so I don’t know how fresh the details are in your mind, but having just read the book and seeing the amount of overlap with the essay I am not surprised you enjoyed the essay so much–and I am glad you did. I appreciated Wilson’s book, but more on that topic in the appropriate place.

        “God will answer in His time.” That’s a whole other issue, but let it suffice to say that, yes I have been thinking about that as well. The passage in Daniel where the angel with the answer was delayed has been rolling around in my mind lately. And, of course I agree that God’s answers are not always yes. No and wait are a part of His answer vocabulary as well.” Yeah, I’m also thinking of how Paul was told “My grace is sufficent for you.” In a sense that was a “no” answer from God, since Paul wasn’t delivered in the way he wanted, but in another sense it wasn’t like God was just abandoning Paul to his problem . . . God did tell Paul how he would help him through his problem–but it was grace, not removal of the problem.

        As to peace being equal to wonder I would disagree. I propose that wonder is a deep rooted part of peace, but the two are not necessarily synonymous.” Yes, my previous statement was not carefully thought out. I was kind of just thinking as I typed, which can be a bad thing 😉

        I am glad my words were of some encouragement. I hope you never get discouraged about sharing the burdens of your life.

      • Nastya Andreyevna

        (Must barge in here and add that I just so happened to finish Wilson’s Tilt-A-Whirl two days ago, and yes, HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So much goodness+wonder+beauty.)

      • (I’m going to join in your fangirlness.) Yes! It’s an absolutely awe-inspiring book. Have you seen his movie about it? He doesn’t try to base it off the book too much, so it’s equally good. Some of it’s on Youtube.

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