What Makes you Stop and Wonder?
I just could not will myself to step inside Home Goods on Christmas Eve. The exquisite and majestic sunset had me beyond mesmerized. The expanse of blood-orange was truly breathtaking and left me in a state of wonder at the creative genius of God.
It wasn't long before others stopped too. Young, old, those in an obvious hurry and those seeming more prone to stop and smell the roses. Those going in and those coming out. One young lady exclaimed, "Woah, what in the world! Woah, woah woah!" About ten of us gathered outside the front of the store, literally staring in silence.
Some started snapping pictures, some called or texted loved ones to take a minute and look up. After one "wow exclamation" by the woman closest to me, I whispered, "I love so much how this sunset is making us all stop and take it all in for a moment together on Christmas Eve." She said, "He has a way of getting our attention, doesn't He?" With a big smile, "I exclaimed, "He sure does, what a good good God we serve."
I left that experience with the cat scratch toy I went for, to be sure to include our beloved cats in Santa's impending visit as not to disappoint my one remaining Santa believer. I also left with a smile in my heart. I felt as though God had spoken directly to me, reminding me of the importance of pausing in reflection of His goodness. I realized how easy it had become for me to leap from one task, one text, one email, one "to do", one thought - to the next, not pausing to breathe, to consider the rise and fall of my chest and how even that is worthy of great thanks.
I did a Google search for "sunsets in the bible" and came to the following verses that spoke deeply to me, as Eugene Peterson uses language I can relate to.
Psalm 65: 1-8 The Message
Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God, And also obedience. You hear the prayer in it all. We all arrive at your doorstep sooner or later, loaded with guilt, our sins too much for us—but you get rid of them once and for all. Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest at home in your place! We expect our fill of good things in your house, your heavenly manse. All your salvation wonders are on display in your trophy room. Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, of mobs in noisy riots - Far and wide they’ll come to a stop, they’ll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, “Come and worship.”
What does it mean to wonder? Per Wikipedia, "Wonder is an emotion comparable to surprise that people feel when perceiving something rare or unexpected. It has historically been seen as an important aspect of human nature, specifically being linked with curiosity and the drive behind intellectual exploration." Deeper digging led me to the discovery that the word in Hebrew used in scripture is "yirah" which translates more directly as "fear". As we have learned with other uses of this word in the bible, fear can also mean respect, awe, reverence and worship...even...trembling!
We see yirah used, for example, when Moses begged God to see His glory, but he could not see God face to face because of God's pure holiness. A face to face encounter would have meant death for Moses. God, instead, showed himself in the form of a burning bush to show Moses His nearness. He also spoke to Moses while he hid in a cleft of the rock. God spoke, Moses hid his face, heard his whisper and saw his back as He came near. I bet you Moses was experiencing "trembling awe" in both encounters...(for accuracy - the work, "yirah" was not actually used in the second example - I am just imagining Moses experiencing it).
I love thinking of God as our "Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, of mobs in noisy riots" and of the calling of the dawn and dusk painted sky to us to stop and to stare in wonder. To stare in a respect so full and rich that it causes us to tremble, to be jolted back into perspective, to consider the bigness of God and the smallness of man.
What makes you wonder? Is it marveling at the miracle of five tiny fingers and toes on each hand and foot of a newborn baby? Is it sitting in the sun watching raindrops fall as rainbows appear? Is it watching your child belly laugh at a joke they made up themselves? Is it listening to an elderly person sing "How Great Thou Art"? Is it witnessing an act of kindness never to make headline news? Is it the realization of the power of really listening to another's words, locking eyes and seeing the wet release of emotion, as they feel heard?
I love that in the bible, written so long ago, God is referred to the "muzzler of mobs and noisy riots." Can you imagine how much knee trembling there might be if God himself appeared in the midst of some of the recent events in our country? And muzzled some folks? I kinda wish He would... but, I don't think it takes that.
In a small town of North Carolina, outside a very regular Home Goods, God's creation itself made a group of strangers stand in awe. The only spoken words were those acknowledging Him and His exquisite paint brushed extravaganza in the sky. God came near and hearts were touched in a moment of pause and exhale in one of the craziest checking-off-the-boxes evenings in America. Not a coincidence that the pause happened the night before we celebrate His son's birth. I do wonder how many people at one time were thinking of God? That sunset made it hard not to believe in a Creator...
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop, they’ll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, “Come and worship.” And the dusk surely did Christmas Eve 2021. That gathering made me think of the verse in Philippians 2:10-11, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" as person after person stopped to stare at that sunset. It literally called to us and *dared* us to worship...
There are so many gifts every single day that can cultivate wonder. I want to wonder more. I want to be dared to worship more, to be challenged to answer the call to stop, to accept the hug from a colleague who deeply cares despite the many covid protocols against it and allow myself to be comforted, to sit for ten extra minutes at the bus stop so my kids can run around the parking lot and play with their buddies and watch them delight in that play, to sit by my daughter at the piano and let her teach me (even though I took lessons for ten years) and watch her eyes wide with wonder as she realizes dear old mom can also play. I believe these moments of stopping, of pausing together can aid our collective healing.
Will you join me in the search for wonder? I'd love to hear your wonders!