The Eyes of a Child: Reverence and Wonder
by Dwight Turner 7/25/2008 / Family
Over the years I have discovered that God, indeed, is a God of surprises. Even more significant is the fact that the unexpected events He so often arranges in our lives are for our own growth and spiritual edification. Shortly after our return from the China mission field in the spring of 2003, the Lord presented us with one of those marvelous surprises, although I admit at first it was a cause of shock, followed by joy, followed by panic. I trust you will see what I mean.
God surprised and blessed my wife and I with the birth of Salina in May, 2004. For me, it was particularly surprising as I was 55 at the time. Now I am about to turn 59 and Salina will turn four next month. In these past four years, I have been given a new perspective on why Jesus told us to be as little children if we wanted to see the kingdom.
Salina has always amazed me with her curiosity, her sense of discovery, and especially her spontaneous wonder and awe as she encounters things new and exciting. Further, she never tires of things that strike her fancy, especially if I do something that she likes but has never really seen before. I am reminded, for example, when I first showed her how to blow bubbles with bubble gum. For me, it was old hat - but for her, this simple act was like seeing a rainbow for the first time or discovering the wonders of ice cream. Whenever I produced a large, pink bubble as if by magic, she would pop it with her hand, laugh in that way that only children can laugh, and say, "Do it again, Daddy; do it again."
This amazing ability to turn something new into an almost sacred event is, I think, part of that unsullied and untainted aspect of the image of God that we are blessed with in our creation. Moreover, children never seem to tire of monotony, at least until they get a bit older. At those miracle ages of two through five or so, kids just seem to revel in both newness and repetition. I am reminded of the famous words of G.K. Chesterton:
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible 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 to make all daisies appear alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never grown tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite for infancy: for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
Sometimes when I sit quietly and open myself to what Chesterton says in these few words and what the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I reflect on them, I am literally stunned into silence; and then I shiver.
Children have not abandoned the ability to experience our world with a sense of wonder and awe. Noted Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel, one of my very favorite authors, calls this capacity for reverence in life "radical amazement" and affirms that the spiritual journey cannot be completed until we reattain this inborn spiritual quality. Heschel makes this statement, "The beginning of awe is wonder and the beginning of wisdom is awe."
When I first discovered these words, I pondered on the meaning for weeks and eventually discovered by doing so I totally lost their true import. I have come to see that Heschel is alluding to the fact that true wisdom begins with the experience of awe, and this basic sense of "radical amazement" has its birth in a childlike wonder at the incredible thing we flippantly call "life" ; the unfathomable creation that surrounds us every moment. I will let Heschel say the rest:
The secret of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it. Something sacred is at stake in every event.....The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal."
Deep in my personal spirit, when it is connected with and animated by the Holy Spirit, I know with certainty that my daughter Salina innately understands this. She cannot articulate it with the eloquence of Heschel but she expresses this sense of radical amazement nonetheless. Every time she giggles when Daddy blows a bubble; every time she sits on the deck and watches birds feeding in the back yard and cows feeding in the field beyond; every time her eyes dance with wonder when she sees a sunset and screams, "Look Daddy, God is smiling," - I know she gets it just as much as Heschel ever did and just as much as I long to once again.
Dwight Turner is founder of LifeBrook Communications, a ministry which produces and publishes web content on a variety of faith-based themes. LifeBrook may be viewed at: