Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
When was the last time you stopped what you were doing to watch the wonder of everyday life? When did you last step away from busyness to let yourself be in wonder of a sunset, a bird winging southward, or old friends in conversation? I ask because G. K. Chesterton was right: “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”
Yet, how often we hear of the problem of boredom. Polls report that boredom is near pandemic at just the time we might think we would be the least bored people in history. Just look at the superabundance of entertainment at our fingertips, literally. We have hundreds of television channels to choose from, omnipresent WiFi and Internet, video games, and music on demand 24/7. And yet, frequently we hear the refrain, “I am bored!”
Today’s scripture from the book of Proverbs is the sure vaccine to boredom; here we see the wise man of Proverbs stopping to ponder the wondrous mysteries of the everyday world. As the wise man pays attention to the world around him, he sees things that he calls “too wonderful”, things he “cannot understand.” He speaks of an eagle soaring overhead; a snake gliding across a rock; a ship tacking the high seas; and the love of a man and woman. Everyday things, for sure, but things that stir any wise person’s astonishment. It is never boring!
Watch little children and consider how naturally wonder sweeps over them. For their young eyes there is the wonder of clouds, soap bubbles and a fuzzy caterpillar inching along the sidewalk. It is all so wonderful for them. But sadly, something happens with the years, and we allow the wonder of ordinary life to wear thin. The wonder of how our eyes work! The wonder of seasons changing! The wonder of friendship lasting through the years!
Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle noted that “Worship is transcendent wonder; wonder for which there is now no limit or measure; that is worship.” Is our modern boredom and lack of wonder the reason for some of “worship wars” in our churches? Before we can worship, we must first be in wonder. Before we can sing “Amazing Grace”, we must be genuinely amazed.
God has placed you and me in a theater of wonder within which we can see God’s hand in everything around us. We have endless pleasures to keep us engrossed, if we are paying attention.
Here is where I think the Hebrew word, Selah, used throughout the Psalms, can be a like a railroad crossing sign calling us to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. The surest antidote to modern boredom is to daily STOP and to LOOK and to LISTEN for God in a world never starved for wonders.
Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel was, in a sense, urging the daily practice of Selah, when he said, “get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually.”
The world never lacks for wonders, only our wonder and our worship. May we become as little children! It will never be boring.
E. E. Cummings’ poem, “i thank You God for this most amazing”, opens my eyes and stirs my wonder as I pray for the eyes of a child:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
A fellow traveler,