Wonder through the eyes of a child
On one of many recent short stroller walks after dinner, I watched as my daughter Sophia noticed, for the umpteenth time, a bunny lying quietly in the grass of a neighbor’s yard. Upon this discovery, her little one-year old body trembled with excitement from head to toe, as she pointed and growled, “Baaaa…”
(I’m not sure why she growls when she sees things she is excited about, but it is quite reliable. Puppies, bottles, bunnies, ducks – all in her toddler version of the word with a growl.)
I delight in her delight, and am somewhat taken aback by it. What – if anything – causes me to tremble these days? For Sophia, it is a daily occurrence.
G.K. Chesterton muses in his book Orthodoxy:
It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
Jesus offered, “unless you become like little children…”
In a world crowding in on us on every hand with screens, technology, interruptions, conveniences, busy-ness, virtual relationships, and just plain ol’ noise, what possible space and energy could be left for trembling at a bunny or wonder at a daisy?
The mindfulness movement has something to offer us here – the simple idea of being fully present, feeling our own body, aware of nature all around us, hearing and experiencing the rhythms of our own breath.
For me, I often find myself quietly repeating in a whisper as I sit on my front porch, looking at the same rose bushes, collection of trees, and periodic visits of birds and squirrels: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Written by the psalmist centuries ago, long before technology and the industrial revolution, it speaks to an age old dilemma – our difficulty with stillness and with knowing.
Ironically, our technological advancements make it possible for us to know almost anything in almost no time, acquired in what is anything but stillness, our smart phones pulling information out of the atmosphere as fast as we can say, “Siri, where is the nearest Starbucks?”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the convenience of quick directions to a new restaurant at my fingertips, and of shooting off a brief message to let my wife know I’ll be late from work. But I don’t think any of this information overload or instantaneous technology is going to lead to much trembling. And it is not the kind of knowing, in stillness, that we are invited to in the psalmist’s simple eight-word declaration.
Be still and know that I am God.
Just this morning I was on that porch, and I allowed myself to be still enough to feel the slight breeze on my face, to look – really look – at the gentle movement of the leaves towering above in the large ash tree in my front yard. I noticed the shadow to my left, moving through the tree branch shadows, eventually realizing it was a squirrel, silhouetted by the rising sun like a shadow puppet on my brick wall. While I didn’t tremble from head to toe, I was quiet from head to toe, in the presence of, and present to, something wondrous and outside myself.
The second part of the invitation (“…and know that I am God”) became more available to me. For, unlike some of the mindfulness literature, the stillness opens the door to knowing something, knowing someOne.
In my conversations with people recently I’ve heard about stress, trauma (large and small, historic and recent), relationship difficulties, family breakdown, overwork, relentless pressures. Being still and knowing that He is God eliminates none of those difficulties, but it provides a zoomed out context that can bring us back to ourselves, back to our capacity for wonder, back to God, and, ultimately, back to worship and transcendence, our most uniquely human passion.
We could all stand to tremble at a few more bunnies, and to be still and know…
P.S. For those of you wondering and who know anything about me and my season of life (can anyone say “4th quarter”?), yes I do have a one-year old. Surely the topic of a whole future blog post, if not several. And thus the one year interval between blog posts! #worldsoldestnewdad