Spiritual Wonder: Getting Beyond "Wow" ~ BitterSweetLife

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Spiritual Wonder: Getting Beyond "Wow"

Spiritual Wonder: Getting Beyond Wow

Recently I’ve been wondering if one should ever “get over” a feeling of amazement at the simplest aspects of truth. After thinking about it for awhile, I’m convinced the answer is No—but that we do need to discover progressively better ways of voicing our appreciation for reality.

Consider: It would be tempting to feel condescension toward a man who is continually amazed that air travel “works,” or that it’s really “possible” to access the internet from home. Get over it, I’d be tempted to tell him, and start enjoying the benefits of technology.

It’s not that airplanes and connectivity aren’t wonderful. Rather, it’s that a childish level of appreciation does not remain appropriate. The first time I drank coffee, I was startled and pleased by the sensation of unusual getup. Now, years later, the extra dynamism supplied by caffeine + a delicious roast is hardly less wonderful—but my modes of enjoyment are more refined. Likewise, and here’s what I’m really getting at, the depth of our appreciation for God should not remain the same.

I am a child of God, and he loves me like a son—but if, after five years, all I can muster in response to this truth is “Wow,” I am doing a disservice to both myself and my Father.

The feeling I’m trying to articulate is that we need to get beyond a mere Wow mentality in our enjoyment of Christ. This is not a disavowal of wonder, it’s an endeavor to seize on better words, to discover more nuanced feelings to offer God in response to his goodness. And these verbal expressions should point back to a life that has become spiritually aware, well-seasoned, mature. A greater depth of praise, I think, is the natural result of a fully savored spiritual journey.

When I first met my wife, she was flattered if I smiled intently in her direction. Now, four years later, I’m finding I need to phrase my compliments more carefully. And it makes sense. After four years of enlightening Lindsay-experience, my accolades have progressed accordingly. God-experience, I’m convinced, should be similar.

Why does any of this matter?

My tendency, sometimes, is to gloss over the inexpressible beauty of God’s person and actions with a childish How cool. Is God astonishing? Yes—beyond words, in fact. But paradoxically, our thanks to God often takes verbal form. And there, I think, is where we often reveal our silliness.

When I first encounter the goodness of Christ, Wow! is a perfectly fitting response. But decades later, if Wow still conveys the sum total of my spiritual experience, my theology is revealing its cracks. I should have seen more by now! I should have tasted more by now! Fundamentally, I should know God better by now! And if I have done these things, I should learn to voice them—or my original sense of wonder may atrophy. As Paul, the theologian wrote:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways (I Corinthians 13:11, The Bible).

Perhaps I’m off the mark here. But I suspect that our shallow rhetoric about God often reveals our superficial understanding of his greatness. And if our understanding is in fact deeper, we are jeopardizing it by short-selling it with our language. Our own words affect us.

God’s excellence is something that calls to be explored aggressively, wrestled with mentally, embraced trustingly, and intuitively lived out. After a few years, an uninterrupted succession of mere Wows may reveal that the depth of our relationship with Christ is suspect.

I can almost see God showing up and questioning me some day…

“Well…yes, God.”

There would be no question of my wanting to. The question would be: Would I have the words? And would I have the thoughts to underpin them? Maybe so…if my knowledge of God today transcends the level of juvenile Wow.

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momma2theMax said...

this post reminded me of an excerpt of Packers i have hanging on my key board (read the board where i keep my keys) from Packers book Knowing God
The question is, can we say, simply, honestly, not because we feel that as evangelicals we ought to, but because it is a plain matter of fact, that we have known God, and that because we have known God, the unpleasantness we have had or the pleasantness we have not had, through being christians does not matter to us? if, we really knew God, this would be what we would be saying, and if we are not saying it, that is a sign that we need to face ourselves more sharply with the difference between knowing God and merely knowing about Him.

i am feeling that as of late my knowing of God and my knowing about God are getting a little skewed in my head.....meaning that my knowledge of "all things god-ish" and my true deep knowing are getting mixed up and i am mistaking one for the other...perhaps a little too much living is going on in my life and not enough joy? or perhaps i need to sit down and finish some reading and get down to the nitty gritty again. i think that the latter would do me good but also a re-evaluation of the former as well. now that i have rambled on...toodles and thanks for the thoughts....

Ariel said...

...and that because we have known God, the unpleasantness we have had or the pleasantness we have not had...does not matter to us...

Wham. Hit upside the head by Packer. He emphasizes the uncomfortable reality that what we say and feel about Christ refers back to the reality in our hearts. In this sense, feelings really do "matter."

I also admit to sometimes feeling the "disconnect" you describe, momma. Sometimes, the intellectual "facts" that point back to spiritual reality do not move me as they should. I have to remind myself that "facts" about God are not dry and empirical. Ultimately, they are bright, mysterious, and would transform my life if I grappled with them really.

At times like this, I simply have to run away and get alone with Jesus, let him speak and get my soul aligned.

Thanks for your honest thoughts - I find that authenticity, when voiced, has a self-reflective effect on those who encounter it. In other words, your transparency is contagious. :)

The Molly said...

Wow! to God. b/c God is so unattainable, and yet so there, and so in us. I'm a newby in the body, though i've been flirting with Christ for my whole life. So in some ways i feel like an aged bottle of wine for Christ, and then in most ways, its like nothing ive ever felt before, and the good news is it keeps renewing, and i keep feeling the vastness of Him. one thing i adore about my relationship with Him is that for the first time, in my lifehood attempts of trying to find god, this is the first time, that God has been quenchable, in other words that I sense the wholeness of God, in other words I somehow sense the whole package, get the whole deal. the mightiness of God lavishes us, pours His Allness and entirety so that you feel you know that he is the All end All, And he gets. loves, the all end you. And he is so down! he comes in all the peculiar cracks of each of us, even the silly parts. he fancies us so! he cares about meeting us just right. so i'm barreling into this God, and believe me I'm wrestling. This is no easy God! this God is set! This God is demanding! This God is furious and loving and brilliant! The God. PS. I am the M*ster.

Ariel said...

...he comes in all the peculiar cracks of each of us...This God is demanding! This God is furious and loving and brilliant!

I like your thoughts here, and agree. Christ demands everything, and gives everything in return. May the spiritual adventure continue! You've begun the greatest journey of all.


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