“A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots….He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear . . . .” – Isaiah 11:1,3
There’s not a lot of room left in the world for wondering these days. When was the last time you said, “I wonder what . . .” or “I wonder how . . .” or “I wonder who . . .” and didn’t just head straight for Wikipedia? When was the last time you pondered a question about the world for a while instead of just pulling your phone out of your pocket and looking it up? I can’t tell you the last time I really wondered instead of just Googling.
The word “wonder” has at least two senses. There’s the sense we usually mean when we say it this time of year: something akin to awe. Then there’s the more commonplace, less magical-star-in-the-sky sense: not knowing the answer but pondering the question just the same. These two senses of the word are related: both involve entering into the unknown, feeling more or less OK about a world that mouse clicks or smartphone taps can’t fully apprehend, opening oneself to mystery, not being able to explain. Both involve way more question marks and exclamation points than periods. Both involve more curiosity than satiety.
I for one get tired of being sated with knowledge and information (though that doesn’t seem to often stop me from losing hours on Wikipedia). I long for unknowing. I seek to wonder.
If you’re like me, then here’s your assignment for today: spend a while wondering in the common sense of the word. Ask a question you don’t know the answer to (extra points if it’s something no one knows the answer to), and just sit around thinking about it for a while. If you’re stuck for a good one, may I suggest one? Given that nobody quite expected the way God showed up in Jesus, and given that God has promised to come back again one day but nobody’s quite sure what that’ll look like, wonder what that second coming will be. Wonder how it’ll be. Wonder who (or what) it will be. Don’t look it up. Just sit around and think about it for a while. Because the more time you spend wondering in the common sense, the better you’ll be at wondering in the wide-eyed sense when the star shows up again.
O God, help me to hone my capacity for wonder—in any sense.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.