Without community, writing can get lonely. So I’m part of a number of different communities both in real life and online, including the Godspace Community where we share a common concern for spirituality, sustainability, and social justice. I’ve published a few articles as part of Godspace, often share pieces written by other members of the community, and today I’m pleased to host co-founder and facilitator Christine Aroney-Sine.
Christine’s newest book is The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God (InterVarsity Press, 2019), and I love what she says below about getting “a daily dose of awe.” I’m trying that this week. Enjoy the read and then why not join me?
The Gift of a Daily Dose of Awe
by Christine Aroney-Sine
Here in Seattle spring is erupting in all its glory. Daffodils and tulips smile at me as I walk along. Cherry blossoms take my breath away as I drive down tree-lined streets, and lush green grass is emerging in the barren spots in our backyard. I love watching the kids climb trees to smell the fragrance of the cherry blossoms and giggle with delight while running barefoot through the grass. Unfortunately I am too inhibited and too busy to join them. I just snap a photo and move on.
It is sad that like me, most adults rarely get out and have fun unfettered by the tyranny of urgent deadlines and rigid schedules. Yet according to Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play, adults need to play just as much as kids do. He says nothing lights up the brain like play. He believes it is as important as oxygen for our survival and may be God’s greatest gift to humankind.
Unless you become like children you cannot enter the kingdom of God. These words from Matthew 18 riveted my attention a couple of years ago and helped change my perspective.
When I asked my Facebook friends, What childlike characteristics make us fit for the kingdom? An amazing list emerged: playfulness, awe and wonder, imagination, curiosity, love of nature, and many more. Tragically we live in a world of play deprivation, nature deficit disorder, and awe and wonder depletion. I think that as a consequence we are God deprived too.
I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering childlike wonder, the joy of play, and the delight of interacting with nature, are essential for our spiritual health. Awe and wonder, imagination and curiosity connect us to the God who is present in every moment and in everything, in a way that nothing else can. Getting out into nature improves our health, boosts our immune system, and gives us joy. These qualities enrich our contemplative core and expand our horizons to explore new aspects of our world and of our God.
It was this conviction that prompted me to write The Gift of Wonder, in which I explore twelve childlike characteristics that I think make us fit for God’s kingdom. Did you know that a daily dose of awe makes us more caring people? Regular reminiscing and nature walks make us healthier and more emotionally stable people. Gratitude transforms our lives and our faith in incredible ways.
Children experience awe a hundred times a day. Adults rarely do, but as a result of my research I have added a “daily dose of awe” experience to my spiritual disciplines. My husband and I rechristen our daily walks as “awe and wonder walks.” We point out to each other the blossom-laden trees and brilliant smiling daffodils and tulips that take our breath away. Sometimes we stop for a few minutes just to admire them. It is fun and inspirational, connecting us to God in vital and enriching ways.
My own increasing joy and delight from my “daily dose of awe” experiences encouraged me to apply the same principle to other activities. Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe-inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go.
Now my daily dose of awe sometimes comes from plane trips or drives around the neighborhood and out into the country. It can even come from awe-inspiring stories of resilience in the face of homelessness and abandonment. On the plane, I am the one with my window shutter up when everyone is trying to see their screens. I am inspired by the landscape we pass over. I am particularly captivated by the meandering rivers shining in the morning sunlight. That’s God doodling I exclaim.
Believing in a God who loves to get dirty hands planting gardens, who makes mud pies to put on the eyes of the blind, who does happy dances and sings with joy over all of humanity and all of creation, has revolutionized my faith.
I want to continue noticing the wonder of the changing seasons and immerse myself in their beauty. I want to increasingly be drawn into the presence of our fun-loving, joy-filled God. This is a great time to get out and have some fun in God’s world. Will you join me in discovering the wonder of God and of God’s world? Plan a play date, go for a walk through your favourite park, and take time to enjoy the beauty and wonder of God.
Christine Aroney-Sine is the founder and facilitator for God Space, an online community that grew out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening, and sustainability. In her new book, The Gift of Wonder (InterVarsity Press, 2019), she explores characteristics like play, curiosity, and imagination that shape us into the people God intends us to be. Her other books include Rest in the Moment, Return to Our Senses, GodSpace, and Tales of a Seasick Doctor.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Name one of your favourite parks and what inspired awe in you the last time you were there.
For more on everyday acts of faith,