There’s a song by Bethel Music called “Wonder” that John and I listen to whenever we’re in the car because we now experience these lyrics in a new way: “May we never lose our wonder / Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child…”
As Grant grabs onto his tiny toes and squeals in delight, I find myself giggling right along with him. Something as simple as discovering his own feet produces such wonder. And something about seeing the world through my five-month-old’s eyes reminds me of the wonder happening all around me – the wonder that often goes unnoticed because what’s to wonder about school buses driving by our house, a breeze blowing wispy hair, or a ceiling fan spinning around and around? But these are all cause for wonder in Grant’s eyes.
Throughout school and then in our careers, we often trade wonder for goals, stillness for progress, and gratitude for achievement. I’m achievement-oriented and self-motivated, and I think these attributes are essential for me to live a meaningful life. However, I am beginning to understand how wonder, stillness, and gratitude can shape my goals, progress, and accomplishments. To marvel requires us to be still, and finding joy in the present results in thanksgiving.
One of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp, frequently writes about gratitude and explains it this way: The word “eucharisteo,” which means thanksgiving includes the words “charis” and “chara” – grace and joy. So she asks,
“Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks? …As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible… The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now…”
As I prepare for my dissertation on discovering and developing a career calling, I have noticed a theme in the beginning stages of my research. Many people’s calling began out of struggle – the “messy, piercing ache of now” – which prompted them to take action on an opportunity they may have overlooked otherwise. Oftentimes, they said “yes” to an opportunity because it piqued their interest, but this small “yes” gave rise to their calling.
Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic calls this following your curiosity instead of following your passion, since if you know your passion, you are probably already following it. Instead, she refers to curiosity as “the clue”:
“…if you can pause and identify even one tiny speck of interest in something, then curiosity will ask you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look at the thing a wee bit closer. Do it. It’s a clue. It might seem like nothing, but it’s a clue. Follow that clue. Trust it. See where curiosity will lead you next. Then follow the next clue, and the next, and the next.”
This trail of clues may lead to your calling, and it explains why a calling is not static. If we are filled with wonder, joy, and gratitude we are always changing and growing. It’s when we view our goals or achievements as the ultimate that our calling stagnates.
Author, Sarah Bessey, describes this so well in a vulnerable blog post that had me in tears at the end. You can read the full post here, but in it she discusses how we have a set story about ourselves that we don’t want to change in the spirit of being authentic. But these very stories then become prisons that hold us back:
“Daring to change our story when we find our primary identity in that particular story feels like we are losing our own sense of self. It’s more than just changing an opinion or a way of life: it’s changing who we thought we were… We will change in ways that we never imagined and even though there is grief to leaving behind that old story, there is freedom and life and space waiting on the other side of the threshold.”
I struggled through these identity questions when I was pregnant and again after having Grant. In the months leading up to Grant’s due date, John and I mourned our last times as just the two of us in our family. Though we were obviously so excited and now couldn’t imagine our family without Grant, it felt appropriate to acknowledge that our story was changing and leaving a part of it behind.
Then in the early months after Grant’s birth, I struggled with wanting to get everything right as a mom. If the 45-intruder woke Grant up early from his nap and I picked him up right away, I would then wonder if I should I have let him cry longer. If the next time it happened, I let him cry for 10 minutes before going in his room, I’d wonder if I should have just cuddled him at the first cry. Eventually John said, “No matter what you do, you can’t win.”
In an effort to do it “right,” I kept second guessing myself, which diminished the joy in parenting. John’s comment helped me realize that I was striving to live out the story that I had things under control and had a plan. I was wondering at my achievements as a mom rather than being filled with wonder and gratitude for being Grant’s mama – and filled with wonder of the Creator.
The rest of the line of the “Wonder” song says: “Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child / staring at the beauty of the King.”
My ultimate desire is that I would wonder first at God’s beauty and then allow this to direct my gaze. With my identity rooted here, a sense of wonder can then permeate my days and shape my dreams and calling.
As John and I look ahead to our careers and follow our curiosity, there’s freedom in knowing that our callings can shift as we change and go through different seasons in life. “May we never lose our wonder…”
So the big question is – what captures your wonder?