Photo by Michael Liao (Creative Commons)
‘We live in an awe-deprived world,’ writes Christine Sine. ‘We sit in front of computers, not under trees and rarely take time to notice the grandeur of God’s world and of those we share it with.’ Since a regular dose of awe makes us physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy, not to mention more caring and compassionate, this is all to our detriment. How can we break the spell and regain a sense of awe again?
Christine is a contemplative activist, passionate gardener, and author of The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God. It’s a delight to welcome her here for this inspiring guest post.
Too Busy, Too Distracted
Photo by Jerry Wang (Creative Commons)
It’s awe and wonder season here in Seattle. Spring is still in full swing. The daffodils and tulips have faded but now rhododendrons, azaleas and dogwoods greet us every time we walk around our neighbourhood. The leaves are just as spectacular. Who knew there were so many shades of green in the world? I point them out to my friends but they tell me they are too busy or too distracted to take notice for more than a cursory glance.
Sadly, though children experience awe a hundred times a day, adults rarely do. So much of what seems miraculous to a child adults dismiss as unimportant. Or they rationalise it away with scientific knowledge destroying the mystery and wonder of God in the process. We live in an awe-deprived world. We sit in front of computers, not under trees and rarely take time to notice the grandeur of God’s world and of those we share it with. Yet awe and wonder change the way we look at ourselves and our world, reorienting our thinking and our actions away from ourselves to the needs of those around us.
The Awe-and-Wonder Walk
Photo by Caroline Hernandez (Creative Commons)
This month, spurred on by the launch of my book The Gift of Wonder, I have added a “daily dose of awe” to my spiritual disciplines. My husband and I have rechristened our daily walks “awe and wonder walks” pointing out to each other the blossom-laden trees and reds and yellows of flowers that take our breath away. Sometimes we stop for a few minutes just to admire them, inhale their fragrance and touch their velvety softness. It is fun and inspirational, connecting us to God in vital and enriching ways.
I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering child-like wonder is essential for our spiritual health too. It was this conviction that prompted me to write The Gift of Wonder in which I explore twelve childlike characteristics that I think make us fit for God’s kingdom.
Did you know that a daily dose of awe makes us more caring and compassionate people? Regular reminiscing and nature walks make us healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. Gratitude transforms our lives and our faith in incredible ways.
Photo by Colin McMurry (Creative Commons)
My own growing joy and delight from my “daily dose of awe” experiences encouraged me to apply the same principal to other activities. On the plane, I am the one with my window shutter up when everyone else is trying to see their screens. I am inspired by the landscape we pass over. I look down at the meandering rivers shining in the morning sunlight. That’s God doodling, I exclaim.
The Bible too is full of awe. We hear it in David’s exclamation of praise in Psalm 65:8, for example:
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders
Where morning dawns, where evening fades,
You call forth songs of joy.
Awe Begets Awe
Photo by Vladimir Chuchadeev (Creative Commons)
Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe-inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go. We gasp at flowers sparkling in the sunlight, and stop to drink in the song of birds in the trees or stand on the hill to better watch the wind rushing through the grass. Then our eyes shift to the people around us. The image of God is etched in each one of them. It is not just our friends and family who give us a sense of awe. The resilience of the homeless and the strength of the abandoned also inspire us.
Opening my eyes to notice the awe inspiring world in which we live and the awe inspiring people we share it with has transformed my faith. I want to continue noticing the wonder of the changing seasons and immerse myself in their beauty. I want to increasingly be drawn into the presence of our fun loving, joy filled God. This is a great time to get out and have some fun in God’s world. Will you join me in discovering the wonder of God and of God’s world? Take the awe and wonder challenge with me. See how many miracles unfold before you each day.
Six Ways to Wonder
Photo by Amy Treasure (Creative Commons)
Let’s get out and give ourselves a good dose of awe and wonder this week. Here are six things you can do.
Get out into nature. Go for a walk in your favourite park or forest, or a picnic at your favourite beach, fully prepared to savour the experience with all your senses – listening, looking, tasting, touching and smelling what you encounter. Look around at the trees and their leaves. How many different shapes and colours do you see?
See the world differently. Look through the lens of your camera or phone. What new perspective does this bring to the scene?
Take notice of the small things. Pick up an unusually shaped rock or shell. What attracted you to this object? What does it remind you of? Hold it in your hand. Touch it against your skin. How does it feel? How is it different from other objects around you?
Slow down and notice. Now find a quiet place to sit to contemplate your treasure. Use your crayons and permanent markers to create a pattern on it. Perhaps there are already patterns in the object that you can highlight. What comes to you as you paint? What does this small piece of creation tell you about God?
Seek out what gives you goosebumps. Now that your sense of awe has been stimulated, reflect back over your day. What else triggered a sense of awe in you? Was it an unexpected smile, a shared story, waves glistening on the sand? Try to make a list of at least ten “miracles” of awe and wonder that you experienced. How could you nurture more regular awareness of miracles like these?
Make space for silence. Sit quietly and take some deep breaths in and out. Close your eyes and remind yourself of the sights, sounds, fragrances, tastes and textures of your day. Listen to God’s presence in the day and contemplate what God’s spirit might say to you. Is there a prayer, song, drawing, or other response that comes to mind?
Contemplative activist, passionate gardener, author, and liturgist, Christine Sine loves messing with spiritual traditions and inspiring followers of Jesus to develop creative approaches to spirituality that intertwine the sacred through all of life. She is the founder and facilitator for the popular contemplative blog godspacelight.com. Her most recent book is The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God (IVP 2019). Connect with Christine on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest