Rediscovering Wonder

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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“THERE! THERE IT IS! I SEE IT I SEE IT!” My daughter points into the night sky from the back deck of our house, leaping from the not-so-sturdy chair and knocking it over. Then it’s my son’s turn: “I SEE IT ISEEIT!” Both stand in front of me, eyes wide and jaws slack. Though the heavens above us are awash in sparkling dots and faint wisps of the Milky Way, I’m not paying much attention to the stars. But I am paying attention to the two small people in front of me. I’ve seen my share of falling stars in my life, seen enough that I didn’t think I needed to see any more. What is more beautiful, more compelling, is watching my children watch them. They’ve heard of falling stars, of course. They are plentiful in their bedtime stories and have shown up in most of their Disney movies. They’ve even drawn them with red and purple crayons on construction paper. But they’ve never seen one. Not until tonight. Not until just now.

My children evoke the sort of emotions in me that one would normally expect a parent to feel. Love, of course. Joy. Pride and confidence and loyalty. But as I stare at them and bathe in their sense of awe, I find another emotion welling up inside of me. Regret. I am rarely awed. Seldom wide-eyed and slack-jawed. And that is a shame because it is a blessing to be as such, and as often as possible. My kids are experts at awe. I am no longer. It is life’s greatest irony that the young desire only to grow old, while the old desire only to grow young again. We’re never satisfied, us humans. We’re always looking for either what we think we don’t have or what we once did but never appreciated. My kids are adamant that they be treated as adults, believing that distinction renders to them a certain freedom. Not true. They don’t know it, but right now they are as free as they will ever be.

Which is why I want to capture this moment, to bottle it up in my mind and cork it tight so the memory doesn’t leak out. I want to sit on the back porch years from now and watch their children to this, and I want to tell them the story of when their mother or father saw their first falling star. Because I suspect by then my children’s awe will likely have faded just as mine has now. They will have seen too much by then. Too much evil and hurt and violence. Too much bad. This world will jade them as it jades us all and make the edges of their hearts rough. The bright tints of magic and wonder in their eyes will be replaced by the grays and browns of knowledge. That is the price of living, one that demands the penance of our wonder. There is no going back for them. For us all. I know that.

“The first time’s a one time feeling,” says the song, and there is much truth to that. My children have just seen their first falling star, and the euphoric feeling that rushes through them now won’t be there for long. But must it be this way? Must my children suffer through such an awakening? Must they grow into this world and sacrifice their wonder and awe to join the ranks of the rest of humanity? For that matter, must I? “Truly I say to you,” Jesus said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” A powerful warning. Yet while there is no doubt that I long to have the heart and eyes of my children, to experience the world as if I’m seeing it for the first time, I can’t. I’ve seen too much already. But maybe that’s not the point. Christ doesn’t seem like the sort of God who tells us to turn around and go backward. He’s the sort of God who points ahead and says, “That way. You live forward.” I cannot see like my children. I cannot live like them. But I can become like them. I can have their awe. Not by seeing and living this day as if it were my first, but by seeing and living it as if it were my last.

Photo by Kelly Langner Sauer. Used with permission. Post by Billy Coffey.