Lord, Make Me Willing to Wonder

If I only wrote of what God is teaching me, how exciting it is, how I am growing, all of His goodness and the excitement of living Real Life in Jesus—the life I shadowed for so many years—you might get the image that all of my lessons come wrapped in exquisite silence. You might picture me sitting on the back porch with my Bible, journal and pen furiously writing down what I hear Father whispering to me through His Word. And all of that would be true.

I am blessed in this season to have unprecedented time to soak up God’s Word. And I’m so grateful for it. I do learn a lot in those quiet hours. But, some of the hardest hitting lessons are just that—hard hitting. They hit my ego, my sanity, my peace of mind, my confidence. Just such a lesson has been pummeling me against the stones of residual unbelief. In the wake of this storm, it feels like my mind has been thrashing with no upward or outward orientation.

Perhaps you can identify: It’s all in the numbers.

No, I haven’t been obsessing over the scale, calories in or calories out as you might suspect of a former anorexic. I haven’t been contemplating hours of exercise or the number of peanuts in a one ounce serving. It’s been another numerical conundrum—the fear of money. (I actually discovered a term for it: peniaphobia. Look it up!)

Here’s how it manifests in me: This week I have bought and returned and bought again an outfit (and almost returned it again). Another item I bought and returned and various others I have fretted over and worried through the halls of my mind like a stone between restless fingers. I have also panicked over credit card fraud, which resulted in closing two accounts and requesting new numbers. (One turned out to be real, the other I was in error.)

I have lost sleep over whether I should or should not buy something for the house. I have been consumed with whether my budget is correct or if I missed recording an expense. I have hounded my husband for not telling me he bought a Kindle book for $1.99.

Maybe you don’t have this problem. However, in the last week I have spoken to two other married women who alluded to wrestling with these unwanted fears too.

So, whether you fret about money or not, let me ask if this resonates with you: I live in a constant state of “what if”, living as if all the “what if’s” could happen and I must take preventative measures.

I’ll share some other specifics with you; try them on for size:
What if the government shuts down again and the military doesn’t get paid?
What if my husband is one of the hundreds forced out of the Army?
What if I need to work and can’t find a job?
What if we lose the renters in our house who are covering the mortgage?

These thoughts were very common when I dealt with anorexia:
What if I get fat?
What if I eat too much today and can’t workout tomorrow?
What if my family gives up on me?
What if there are more calories in that than what I counted?
What if they actually put dressing on my salad?

So, my self-protective, chicken-heart believes that it’s best to live as if these things might happen, live hyper-vigilant. More painfully true—it’s best to live as if God isn’t good just incase He withdraws His blessing that has been so generous to me for more than 34 years.

My eating disorder was one giant, frightened step back from a looming “What if?” It was my shattered response to a terrifying unknown. It manifested in rejecting love—What if they stop loving me? Extreme anxiety in school and other challenges—What if I fail? Fear of enjoying anything—What if I get used to this and it’s not here tomorrow?

Terror of the unknown cropped up in my marriage and almost short circuited forgiveness. After discovering my husband’s addiction to pornography, even after he addressed it, we worked on our marriage and I had no evidence that it remained, still I held him at arm’s distance, skeptical and suspicious—What if it comes back?

Paralyzing, invasive fear is the side effect of living in a perpetual, hypothetical state of “What if?”.

As I discovered this tendency to live in prevention mode against all possibilities, I realized that I rebel against wonder.

The same thing that I admire in carefree children and happy-go-lucky puppies, I fight against tooth and nail as an adult. I do not want to experience wonder. I do not want to embrace “maybe” or, “what if”, or “perhaps not”.

Then God got really personal. I heard Him whisper, “If you rebel against the unknown, you can never know me.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

To pursue the heart of God is to step willingly into wonder, amazement and, invariably, into the unknown. To trust Him is to acknowledge and embrace what I cannot fully know.

Oh My Father, I want to wonder. I want to know wonder and amazement and awe and true, Biblical fear—fear of you and you alone. Please, gently release these shackles of safety. Teach me to trust you and to walk in wonder. Teach me to ask “what if” with anticipation, joy and peace.

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Blind to Beautiful

This morning, walking my dog down Sydenstriker, I watched a little girl learn to use a white-tipped cane. Nine-thirty in the morning, most of her friends were in the school building she practiced in front of. An older lady stood protectively between her and the street, holding her own white-tipped cane.

Like metronomes in perfect sync, their canes scanned the sidewalk 10 inches before out of sightthem. The little girl had wild brown hair. Her profile was slight, a little beanpole dressed in a hot pink t-shirt and blue jeans. With her left hand she clung to the older woman’s shirt sleeve.

I passed them in seconds and just as quickly they passed through my thoughts and into catalogued, insignificant memory. Until this afternoon.

My husband and I sped along Braddock Road, grumbling as the golden, spring sun gave way to April showers. I was thinking about my yoga practice this morning, how I feel different, more whole after yoga than after other workouts. I like that feeling of knowing I’m alive, feeling graceful, collected and yet free at the same time. But I wondered, did I work out hard enough? I don’t feel especially fatigued or sore like I do after other workouts. Did I do enough?

These fears harken back to 15 years of pushing all my physical limits: Too little food, too much exercise. I did it all in pursuit of a goal – to look beautiful, to look competent, to look powerful, to look in control.

Recently, I read an article by one of my favorite people, Amy Dardis, referencing another of my favorite people, Esse Johnson. She spoke of knowing her body. My thoughts skipped.  How do I know my body? I do know that it can hear and feel and taste and see and touch and smell and walk and sleep and love and care and hurt and bleed and write and cook and listen and…

So why am I so much more worried about what I see than all the other things that my body is and does? Would I dare tell that little girl that she is missing the essential gift of life because she cannot see whether she is thin or beautiful or young or old?

What would happen if I didn’t worry so much about what I look like and instead, learned to focus on what I sound like, feel like, smell like? Beauty can be expressed those ways too.

Do I speak gently and joyfully, encouraging others and laughing at the lighter things and praying for the harder things?
Do I smell fresh and delicious to my husband?
Do I feel strong and capable?
Do my hands feel comforting to mourners?
Does my voice sound like praise?
I never smell Amber Romance, or Santa Fe perfume without melting into sweet thoughts of my mother.
I can’t contain the joy in my heart when I hear my niece tell me that a duck says, “Kack, kack”.

So why is what I look like so much more significant to me that all the other aspect of who I am? I wonder.

wondering if i wander

is this living by the Spirit

unsure where i am and

untethered against next wind’s gust?

or

is this?

to live by increments

a divided clock and protracted heart

degrees of devotion to each good deed?

or

somewhere in the middle –

is there quiet and peace?

I know there is!

for

I have a shepherd who

promises quiet water trickles near

but though i trod, i fear.

how?

to walk with him without wondering

to walk with him without wandering

his Spirit in me?

Can’t Handle The Wonder

I went to the theatre

With the author of a successful play.

He insisted on explaining everything.

Told me what to watch,

The details of direction,

The errors of the property man,

The foibles of the star.

He anticipated all my surprises

And ruined the evening.

Never again! – And mark you,

The greatest Author of all

Made no such mistake.

[quoted by Zacharias on pages 46-47 of Recapture the Wonder]

As a pro-life, creationist who believes in a world-wide flood and Noah’s ark; as a woman who defends the inherency of the Bible, the virgin birth and Christ’s literal resurrection – I admit on more than one occasion I have wished that He would spoil the story. It would be so much easier to defend my faith and centuries of Christians could have been spared much persecution, if God would only show up and explain everything.

Wonder can be enhanced when reasoning knows where to draw the line, for the noblest reason is to know God Himself. This is a divine principle carved into the human longing for a story with enchantment. pg. 47

If Adam and Eve had been content to live in the wonder of Eden, blessed with every possible delight and communion with God Himself; denied only the knowledge of the taste of one forbidden fruit – if they had been content with wonder and peace, they would never have been cursed with dangerous knowledge and death.

I am a self-confessed control-freak. I wonder how many times my joy would have been multiplied if I hadn’t insisted on uncovering and altering my own future – the future that God has prepared intimately for me. I get flustered and bent out of shape when I’m interrupted or a day ends without accomplishment – never in wonder at the creative, personal twist God placed in my timeline.

It’s the same as the child who pokes through the wrappings under the Christmas tree. He will be hard pressed to express genuine wonder on Christmas day, as he already knows what’s hidden. Think of all the wonders we daily deprive ourself: we want to know the gender of our children before they’re born (now we want to influence the gender), we want to “add” and “subtract” hours from our days as we switch from daylight savings time and back. We practice plastic surgery – even on our children, so that we can design our own appearance.

I’m not declaring any of the above explicitly wrong, but it’s food for thought. When, why did we decide that we couldn’t handle wonder?

A copy of this book was freely provided by Moody Publishers for this review.

I Wonder…What is Wonder? A Review of “Recapture the Wonder”

We Miss It, But What Is It?

A man far smarter than myself, started Chapter 1 of his book with such a question. Blissfully and quickly engaged in the generous free copy of Recapture the Wonder, that Moody Publishers provided to me for this review, I pawed through the first several pages. Suddenly, I was aware that I hadn’t actually captured any of the message. Though reading the words, even out loud at points, their meaning slipped through the slats in my mind. Slats created by tiny gaps between streams of constant information: schedules, studies, obligations, requisite “fun” time, etc.

Though his prose are heady and intellectual, as I write this post I’m gaining a better understanding of Ravi Zacharias’ message in his new book. Maintaining a sense of wonder in this adult-world is just like my fruitless efforts to grasp Zacharias’ intent and retain it. I’m a very capable reader, I have plenty of light, a comfortable chair – all the tools necessary to read this book thoughtfully and to gain insight. And yet, I finished the first chapter as clueless as I began. What is this?

Can you honestly explain wonder? We miss it, but what is it?

A less educated child, the one I’m watching lift her sleepy head off of the bouncy-chair tray. Glassy blue-gray eyes blink at me, slightly out of focus. She’s unaware of the drool dripping from her chin or the creases in her cheek from resting on top of her toys. But within seconds, still unaware of herself, she sees her mother. And her eyes snap quickly into focus, a contented, pleased, wonderful smile spreads across her face. She knows what wonder is. She is unaware of herself, but she knows what wonder is.

Zacharias shares the story of walking down a busy street with his wife. They bump and jostle past affluence, ignorance, business and all other walks of life. Then, they notice a homeless man, oblivious to anyone watching, digging desperate and hungry through a dumpster. The story ends there, but imagine if someone had tapped that man on the shoulder and offered him a steaming bowl of chicken soup, a sandwich and water, then walked away without demanding reciprocity. That man would display wonder.

I’ve struggled with slow digestion as I read Ravi’s book. I wish I could hear him read it in his rich, mesmerizing Indian accent. Ah well, the written page will afford me many re-reads. And I will need them. So far, I am considering whether intellect and knowledge – especially self-knowledge – are potential enemies of wonder.

What do you think?