I was walking on the river trails in town, kicking my feet through fallen leaves. The light was golden and I was thinking of many things: including a devotional I'd been reading about the value of joy, and the fact that our Bible translations often don't quite nail the word right. Joy in scripture has a meaning equivalent to the look someone has on their face when they're happy to see you (you know, when we say someone's "face lights up"). Picture looking at your small child, sleeping. Precious.
That led me to thinking about children and why they seem so much happier than adults so much of the time. It's no secret kids laugh many, many more times in a day than adults do. It's because they still have a sense of wonder, I thought, looking up at the vast trees about me. Everything is still new. And children, I thought, are still trusting and innocent. Less jaded by disappointment.
I kept coming back to the idea of wonder. And that led to thinking of the word wonderful. They're too very different words today, aren't they? I hear wonder and I think wide open eyes and amazement. Awe. Wonderful seems almost like a pleasantry. "The food was wonderful"..."We had a wonderful time"..."That's wonderful that you got a new job." Wonderful means we're getting what we want and what makes us happy.
But maybe there is a better way, and maybe it's the only way to be, when this world, when our lives and circumstances in the here and now are not so wonderful.
What about being wonder-full?
An internet search tells me wonder means to have "a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable."
We all love wonder. We all want to be full of wonder, don't we? But when I look at that definition, I have to acknowledge what wonder is not: control.
Wonder is not being able to tidily answer every "why?" question.
Wonder is sometimes doubt and rarely rational.
Wonder is about something outside of and beyond us.
Wonder is surprise at what can't be explained, but isn't that what we all want? And so wonder implies humility. If we know all, understand all, have done it all, why would anything inspire wonder?
There is that famous line in the poem Invictus the reads, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." Stirring words for those who do not wish for circumstances to define them, yes.
But not the words of a child. In some ways I feel I need to stay one. The way I see to find joy and beauty in a grim and dark world is the way of wonder. Not just awe at the brilliance of a sunset or autumn leaves, but a different kind of awe that involves submission and acknowledgement of something greater than I am.
As the story of Job recounts, after all of the heartache and a whirlwind blast of a conversation with God, after having none of his pain validated or questions answered, he responded with: "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know."
Could it be. He found peace not that in everything was wonderful. But in being wonder-full.
Somehow, when all we have is not enough, it is enough. So I will choose to again and again open my hands and place the questions and unknowns into the arms of the one whose thoughts are not my thoughts, whose ways are not my ways. When I do, I am left with something not necessarily good at first sight, not necessarily safe and tidy, but something too wonderful for me to know. On this side of eternity, that can be enough.