My Journey Into Wonder, pt. 1

I used to think that wonder was something that happened to us. Something that suddenly entered our presence and we noticed. I used to think that wonder, or the realization of wonder, was a surprise. I used to think that wonder found me, that it was a gift from God placed in a specific moment for me to find. I was wrong.

The past two years have marked a new phase in my perception of life. As I began researching the history between Judaism and Christianity, my eyes were suddenly opened to a distinctly different view of life than I experienced in my Christian circles. A dear friend loaned me a copy of the brilliant work “God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. If I could ask everyone to read one book it would be this. Suddenly and slowly everything began to change.

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion- its message becomes meaningless.
— -Abraham Joshua Heschel

These words stared up at me starkly from the first page of the first chapter. I was prepared for a philosophical treatise. What I found was a journey into a heart captivated by wonder. I must admit, I have not finished the book. For two years Heschel has been my companion and his words hold my attention long after I carefully set the book down. I cannot seem to read more than a couple pages at a time. His words are too heavy. I thought I knew what mediating on words was, I learned that in countless Sunday school classes, right? I did not know that I had been selling Scripture short. Heschel taught me to mediate. For the first time I was confronted with sentences dripping with wisdom like an apple in honey. And now I feel compelled to share my journey through them with you.

Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of all sin.

 I wrote this quote on a trendy little chalkboard in my room over a year ago. I had thought that I would change out the quote every week, like any good hipster would do, to practice my hand-lettering. It never happened. I would like to say that by now I have the concept figured out. I don’t. I would like to say that I look at the board every morning and set about my day with a deep sense of the profoundness of living. I don’t. I get caught up in the frustration of life, in the disappointments, in the let downs. I forget that every morning I have the power to deny death its sting and to rob hell of its victory. Often instead of denying I affirm.

Yet, then there are days when my mind wrestles with the sublime. I see it everywhere. It mocks me for ignoring it and suddenly I realize that the sublime is always there. It never leaves. It does not hide only to jump out and surprise me. What I thought was God blessing was really me opening my eyes to see the eternal. I realized what Rabbi Kushner meant when he said that we see what we seek. I have come to realize the power in seeking is the ability to see. I guess its like what happens when you fall in love and suddenly you think you see that person’s car everywhere and all the places that car is you want to be because that means your beloved is there. The more I seek wonder the more I find God. And the more I seek wonder the more I see God in places I never thought He would be. And the more I find God in places I never thought He would be, the more I learn about His playfulness. And the more I learn about His playfulness, His hiding places, the more I love the world because He hides here a lot.

There is so much more I haven’t typed. So many new perceptions of life that I haven’t yet shared. I will soon and I hope you read them. Because if you could know that God is as much in your pain as He is in your joy, you wouldn’t fear the pain quite so much.  And if you could understand that He hides in the mundane making it sublime, life wouldn’t stink quite so much. And if you could learn to love His hiding places the world would quickly change. I used to think quite a bit of things that I think are rubbish. I have been on a journey into wonder. This means that I have been on a journey of doubt and questions and found answers that weren’t what I thought. Then I heard the whisper "Further up, further in."

(c) Cody Thomas