Courtesy of: http://www.contemplativemind.org/
Autumn is almost in full bloom here in Connecticut and Halloween is nearly upon us. Not too long ago I took both my children to a celebrated display at our local garden center. "Pumpkin Town" includes a hay maze, decorations and themed displays that feature "pumpkin people". It is cheap, the kids love it...a perfect formula for a sunny afternoon.
As we set off this year to make our annual visit both my kids beamed in the backseat with anticipation, memories from the year before dancing in their heads. When we finally arrived my son reveled at the displays, got a kick out of the "pumpkin car" and ran to each pumpkin person giving them an enthusiastic embrace. While I had to quell his rambunctious zeal a bit so as to not have to pay for anything when we left, I watched as my daughter's face fell into an expression of disappointment.
"When did it get so small?" She asked, looking around unimpressed.
Something within my heart stirred a bit as I realized this was yet one, of many signs lately, that my daughter is growing up.
"Well, it's the same as last year...", I replied slowly. "It probably looks a little different because you're bigger, you're a little older now."
Later at home that night while cooking dinner I mused over the fact that my little girl is growing up. The amazement she's had towards certain things has now waned and rusted. She is losing some of the wide-eyed childlike wonder that she's always viewed this world with.
I thought about how that can also be the case as it comes to our perspective towards God. How, as with any relationship, our relationships with God and the way we view Him can eb and flow. And ultimately, the wonder at which we first saw Him, can wane and fade, just as a child's wonder does at the world around them. We become used to God, feel we have Him "down" and the wonder that we first approached the footstool of His throne with becomes replaced with busy talk at prayer meetings, Sunday morning sermons and just the stuff of life. It can be easy, as God becomes more commonplace and routine, to stop taking the time to cease everything and ponder His glory, His love, His amazing nature.
To echo the psalmist:
Psalm 77: 11-14a
Psalm 77: 11-14a
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way , O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders.
I thought about the concept of having "faith like a child". Oftentimes, when I've had questions, which I seem to always have, things that have become stumbling blocks to me, I am told simply to have faith like a child. Those I converse with quote Mark 10:15 15 "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And explain that it means that God's children are not to question, to just accept and embrace what Scripture has to say and leave it at that.
When did children not ask questions? Don't they always ask questions?!?!
In my view, I don't think Scripture is telling us to be ignorant like a child. I think , instead, Scripture is telling us to have the kind of child-like innocence, the fresh wonder and amazement in which a child approaches the world. A trait that life and our culture seems to squash over time. Oftentimes us adults perceive everything as commonplace and don't look for the miracle in the ordinary. The miracles that seem to rise up out of the periphery for children, because their senses are more receptive in receiving them. In the same way a child has wonder and awe at discovering the things of this world, we are to have wonder and awe at discovering God.
God invites us to see everything new and revealed before us, as children do. He welcomes our inquiries and invites us to dig deep for His truths, as a child digs enthusiastically at the beach, finding delight at discovering treasure after treasure buried beneath the sands.
So, what is one to do if they find their wonder towards God has waned? The amazement in which they once approached God, now rusted like a lone tractor out on a farm field, unused, a remnant of a faith grown cold and indifferent? Still a believer, yet the fire once burning like the rising sun, now hidden and obscured, dark as a new moon. Does this sound familiar? I've certainly been there.
I'm sure there are many ways. A gratitude journal is a great place to start. Consciously writing down the things that you appreciate and find in your everyday moments. It's an effective practice in mindfulness. That's what Ann Voskamp did and wrote about in her book, "One Thousand Gifts", a wonderful and inspiring read by the way! You can read my review here: http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/06/one-thousand-gifts-book-review.html
Contemplative spiritual disciplines can also have a profound effect on one's faith. Centering prayer and mindfulness meditation has taken my faith that had once become nearly all dogma and doctrine and breathed life into it as I began to experience and encounter God directly. As I have progressed in my practices it is as if I am seeing things in a whole new way. Lifted from the once blurry and shadowy background, all kinds of details around me are emerging. The senses become more attuned and can often become flooded with the glory and miracles God has to offer. The ordinary has now become extraordinary as wonders abound in each moment. It's been a transformative journey as I have begun to cultivate an inner awareness of God.
Oftentimes, when I'm in the woods I just feel like falling on my knees, thanking God for the wonders that surround me. Feeling overwhelmed by the deep feeling of His presence within and all around. I wrote about such an experience in this article: http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/10/at-rivers-edge.html
I encourage you to take a look at the diagram above and, if you feel some of your wonder has waned or you want to experience God in new ways, consider which practice(s) you might want to try incorporating in your spiritual life.
Have any other suggestions? Comments? I'd love to hear them! Thank you!