Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
Spiritual writer and theologian, Douglas Burton-Christie, tells about learning to ask his three-year old daughter, not “What did you do today?” but rather “What did you notice today?” Then, because his daughter began asking him the same question, he also found himself “noticing a lot more.”
In today’s Scripture text, the wise man of Proverbs is also noticing a lot more. At the end of Proverbs’ long tribute to wisdom, the wise man stops to notice the wonders of daily life. As he does, he sees things “too wonderful” for him to take in: the way an eagle soars in the sky, a snake glides across a rock, a ship tacks through the high seas, and the love of a man and woman. Things that others might not stop to notice, he sees and wonders at them.
Throughout Proverbs the wise man wonders at the stuff of everyday life. He wonders at the mysteries of creation, human relationships, the destiny of nations, and most of all, he wonders at God. He believes that wisdom is somehow related to wonder; to look at things and let ourselves be amazed, in awe, and to wonder.
I think that Scottish essayist, Thomas Carlyle, was on to something important when he noted that “wonder is the basis of worship”. Before we can truly worship, we must first overcome by wonder; wonder at God’s creation, wonder at the Incarnation, wonder that God died for us, and that He is coming back! All this stirs wonder, awe, amazement, and yes, worship. There’s no sleeping through this kind of worship!
Wonder seems to have come naturally to us as children. Everything was new and so amazing; it was miraculous! But as we grew older we started to take things for granted, and the wonder wore off. And in losing wonder we forgot how to be in awe, or how to even worship. We sing “Amazing Grace” and are not amazed. We sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” but never tremble before Him. Is it any wonder that worship is so often boring!
The daily nurture of wonder is one of the reasons for prayer and thanksgiving. In this we set out each day to notice and to be in wonder at the surprise of just being alive with all of its blessing. We find ourselves amazed at each new day’s gift of life, and grateful to God for sunshine, love, birds singing, and mystery.
Jewish philosopher and theologian, Abraham Heschel spoke often about the need for “radical amazement”, and said:
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement….to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
This ability to be amazed and spiritual is something we can all develop within us. We only need notice the wonders all around us: the eagle that soars, the sun as it sets, the courage of people around us, the rose in winter, and God’s infinite love.
G. K. Chesterton said that “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” So let yourself wonder at the wonders! Be in awe at the sheer grace of being alive and loved!
What did you notice today?