The Life-changing Spiritual Discipline of Wonder

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Nearly a half-century ago, when I was about 7, a moment of wonder changed my life forever. 

I was lying on the floor of my great-grandma’s little lake cottage, giving my easily-fried skin a break from the summer sun. In front of me was a coloring book, open to a cartoonish drawing of mushrooms. 

As I busily filled in the mushroom caps and stems with red and orange Crayolas, my mom sat down next to me. After a minute she asked, “Do you want to see something?” Using a darker crayon, she showed me how to shade one of the mushrooms to make it look three-dimensional—and the doors blew off my world.

That one moment launched me into a life-long love of art and art-making. I can still feel the wonder that flooded through me, opening my eyes to all kinds of new possibilities. 

God’s story is full of life-altering moments of wonder, like Moses at the burning bush, Mary with the angel Gabriel, and Jesus standing outside the tomb that had held his body for three days. But Scripture also encourages us to live our lives with open eyes and ears, watching and listening for God’s revelation in smaller ways too. 

The good news is that wonder is not only something that happens to us from time to time; it’s also an important spiritual discipline, a habit or a “muscle” we can develop. And when we practice wonder, the results can be life-changing.

Try this: go for a walk with a strong magnifying glass in your hand. Stroll through a woods or a park, stopping to look closely at things you might otherwise ignore: an acorn cap, a beetle, a dandelion. Really study them, as if you were seeing them for the first time. Notice how intricately they are made, the detailed care with which they’re created. Take your time. 

Then go home and read Psalm 139:1-16. Remember that God knows every detail of how you are made, who you are, and who you will become. Remember that God knows every other human being (and all other parts of Creation too!) in this same way. Let this fact sink in. 

If you regularly practice the discipline of wonder, you’ll find yourself looking at things and people with fresh eyes and with a new appreciation for how much God loves and cares for everything God has made.

Want to delve more deeply into wonder? Faith Formation Ministries has included the practice of wonder in its Faith Practices Project, a set of resources built around 12 spiritual disciplines. You’ll find ideas for exercising the muscle of wonder on your own, with a group, or as a family.

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