Each year for the past 30+ years I have done my best to engage a group of 9th grade students in a conversation about God and Jesus and the Bible and faith. Generally, I have stepped into those conversations with two goals. One goal has always been to give them permission to ask questions. To let them know it is okay (and even more than okay – essential) to ask questions and to allow the questions to move them to new insights and understandings. A second goal has been to dispel the preconceived notions pick up someone along the way, but which make less and less sense as they are exposed to more information and they become critical thinkers. While both those goals continue to be important I wonder if I have missed something important.
What I have may have missed was brought to my attention by the book I am currently reading – Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings. Here is are a few sentences which I have found myself pondering this week.
“[Humanity] will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation. The beginnings of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe, but a will to wonder.” (p. 51)
And then this…
“Awareness of the Divine begins with wonder.” (p. 46)
Is that a part of what I should be helping these young people discover and nurture and claim in their own lives? I think so. All of the information, no matter how accurate or how important, makes no sense if does not go hand in hand with an awe and wonder that does not, at least, occasionally stop us in our tracks.
In addition to thinking about this in terms of the lives of the young people with whom I work, I have also been thinking about it in terms of my own life. When am I caught off guard by beauty? When do I stand in awe in the face of that which is so much larger than my daily distractions and concerns? I have realized that what often gets in my way is the pace at which I live my life which either keeps me going at too fast a pace or which leaves me to tired to care.
So, I have decided…
Not only do I need to make time and space in my life that I have the opportunity to be caught off guard by wonder, I need to help this group of young adults begin to name and to claim similar moments in their own lives. And, by doing so help to create an opportunity for an experience of the Holy.