Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” – Genesis 28:16-17
This past summer I was walking in my backyard and noticed that yet another colony of ants was building an underground condo in my lawn. I was immediately irritated and hurried off to the garage to see if I had any insecticide. But as I walked around the side of our house I notice our neighbor, an adorable two-year old named Sophia, along with her mom, down on all fours, staring with rapt attention at the ground. Her mom looked up, smiled, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Ants. She’s fascinated by them.” The very thing that irritated me led a child to a deep sense of wonder. Maybe that’s why Jesus said that the Kingdom of God belongs to children. They see the world with eyes of wonder. Perhaps they’re more open to the One whose presence fills the earth.
Wonder is the capacity to see and experience the Holy in the seemingly humdrum. And while it sounds like child’s play I believe it is a core habit of our spiritual formation. It is a critical step on the journey of growing in faith, learning in every moment to awaken with wonder like Jacob and cry out, “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it…. How awesome is this place!”
Wonder is like a muscle; it grows in size and strength with exercise and it atrophies through neglect. Children seem to burst forth from the womb wonder-full, but it isn’t long before our wonder wanes under the hectic pace of life and the pressure to conform – to see as everyone else does. But like any habit, wonder weaves itself evermore naturally into the rhythms of our life through the process called practice. And like any spiritual practice the Holy Spirit is our partner and guide.
Want to grow in wonder? Want to see more of the Holy in the seemingly humdrum? While there are many spiritual practices that have helped disciples to grow in wonder, the most effective in my own journey has been The Daily Examen. If you’re interested, you can find more information and basic instructions here. Like all spiritual practices The Daily Examen is deceivingly simple. How could such a simple practice transform us, open our eyes to greater wonder? But practiced daily and faithfully over time that’s exactly what the Spirit will do in your life. So try it, and let it be yet one more reason to live with a deep sense of wonder at the awesomeness of our ever-present God!
Need a little inspiration? Watch this.
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN