In my second half of life,“wonder” has been a constant theme. I don’t have to prove anything any more other than to try to return in some way the gifts that have been given to me and to love as I have been loved. Someone said that God is really into the tactile: God begins this whole wonderful creation with a big bang and it keeps going on and on – water, sun, stars, vegetation, and then you and me created in God’s image.
This summer I was recruited to do a ten week supply in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii. While the beach is not my milieu, it looked like an adventure and my family and colleagues encouraged me to go for it. I was only responsible for the three weekend services. My wife joined me during week seven. So, beyond sermon preparation, I spent my days reading books I had not gotten to, exploring new authors and playing a sort of hermit – studying, praying, and contemplating the incredible beauty that is the Hawaiian Islands.
I have never lived so close to the water as this summer. My condo was literally 100 yards from the shore of the Pacific Ocean with no obstructions except some palm trees. I could see every motion, every horizon, every sunrise, moonrise, the stars and the planets in their courses. I saw the storms come and go. The sea was never the same.
In our Judeo/Muslim/Christian faith, water is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit and the abyss. From Genesis, where the Spirit hovered over the water to begin creation, to the waters flowing from the river of life in Revelation, it is always water – life giving, cleansing, and scary.
I have struggled for years with contemplative prayer. I have engaged spiritual counselors to help me embrace these deeper regions of prayer. Some years ago, I gave up and lived with a thin veneer of guilt for having done so. An infection that left me with ringing in my ears did not help. Silence was never silent. Yet, this summer, the sound of the sea covered over most of that noise and led me to contemplate that great gift of water – the unending flow that reminds us of God’s grace that never ends. It was amazing – a wonder that I’m just beginning to realize after being back home for six weeks.
Abraham Joshua Heschel—theologian, philosopher and mystic—one of the most revered rabbis of the 20th Century wrote, “I did not ask for success, I asked for wonder.”
No matter where you are, may the gift of wonder remind you of God’s presence in all of life and of that ever cascading, rolling grace that bubbles up and pours down on us.
Grace and peace,