Several years ago I had the privilege of teaching fifth grade science in a small private school. I loved teaching that class because the students still had what I called the “Wow Factor”. They were developed enough to understand some rudimentary science, but still young enough for those same facts to produce a sense of awe.
I really think that we lack a sense of wonder in the 21st century. We lost it somewhere in our search for solutions. We were separated from it as we entered our virtual worlds of avatars, tweets, Facebook posts, and Pixar movies. For some, the divorce from wonder has been quietly finalized in the hourly, daily, and monthly humdrum of pursuing a career, raising a family, and paying off debts.
As a follower of Jesus, maintaining a sense of wonder is important because wonder produces awe – an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration. The root word for awe means to scare, or produce fear. A sense of wonder feeds what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord” – an awareness that an Almighty Creator God sees all that we think, do, and say, constantly evaluates those things, and will someday require an account – an answer – from us. It is the beginning of wisdom and will cause us to hate evil, pride and arrogance – first in ourselves, and then in the culture around us as well (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 8:13).
Wonder also produces curiosity. It causes us to draw near and investigate. It fills us with questions that cry out for answers. It causes us to seek out the essence of what caused the wonder. It causes us to seek God Himself. In fact, God produces this wonder in us for no other reason than to call us to seek Him (Psalm 27:8)
Wonder not only challenges (or overwhelms) our minds, it also opens our hearts. A sense of wonder gives us ears to hear, eyes that see and hearts that understand. As the Israelites prepared to cross over to Canaan, God warned them about losing that sense of wonder. He told them that after the battles were fought and the homesteads were erected that there was a danger that the “Promised Land” would become the “Forsaken Land”. Why? Because there was the danger that their hearts would grow “fat” and that all the wonders that God had done for them would be forgotten, or worse, taken for granted. A holy sense of entitlement would replace the hunger their hearts should have for Him alone. God said that if that became the case, the wonder of deliverance the Israelites lost would be replaced by the wonder of exile, captivity, and restoration (Deuteronomy 4:9,10; 8:11-20)
In the end, a sense of wonder is essential for a lively faith. In Psalm 72, right at the end of the end of the psalm and the end of all his prayers, David concludes “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!” Although there were times his sense of wonder faded, David, even in his old age, never lost the wonder that only God could produce. Everything that God does is wondrous, and He is the only One Who can do them! Everywhere David looked, he not only saw, he recognized, God’s wondrous things. To David, the whole earth was filled with His glory, and his faith was strengthened day by day through the “Wow Factor” (Psalm 72:18-20).
I read a biography of Albert Einstein a few years ago. In the book the biographer related the first time she saw the famous scientist standing by a fountain on the Princeton campus. He was looking at the fountain moving three of his fingers in front of his eyes. She approached him and asked what he was doing. He said that he was creating a strobe effect so he could “count the drops “of water coming from the fountain. Then he looked at her and said (what I think was the secret of his genius), “Never lose the wonder.”
How important is this sense of wonder? In Matthew 18:1-5, the disciples asked what seemed to be their perennial question, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a little child into the midst and told them that, unless they are converted (twisted, turned around, changed) and become like that little child, not only would they not be the greatest in the kingdom – they would not even make it in the door!
I like to think that child that Jesus called into His meeting with His disciples was about the same age as a fifth grader. The “Wow Factor” was still alive in his or her heart. We need to be sure it never disappears in ours.