A line from one of C.S. Lewis’s essays has poked its head up with the daffodils; it comes from “On Stories,” and it’s one of those beautiful things that a person can’t help but share. He writes, “No man would find an abiding strangeness on the Moon unless he were the sort of man who could find it in his own back garden.” As I make my own garden ready, this idea turns me over, and God prepares to change me.
Our God is high above us; there is no other like him. When I think of Him this way, certain passages of the Bible come to mind. I read in the book of Daniel about the Ancient of Days, who sits on a throne of flaming fire; in Ezekiel about the vision of four creatures and their wheels covered with eyes, above them a throne of sapphire for One who is Himself alight; in Revelation about Christ’s eyes of blazing fire and voice of rushing waters.
I meditate on such things and am amazed, especially when I remember that one of the many paradoxes of our God is that He is strange enough to glory in the ordinary. Our awesome God scandalized Himself by putting on flesh, by working as a common laborer, by breaking bread, by welcoming children. And what does it all mean? How do we reconcile the incarnation? After all, maybe we don’t, but it could be that the ordinary parts of life–and of Christ’s earthly life–are not ordinary at all. It could be that what we call common is lovely in His sight. It could be that we walk among wonders all day long without understanding.
I must digress to Chesterton. In chapter three of his book Heretics, he writes, “Nothing is more keenly required than a defence of bores.” We might, in our day, change the word “bores” to “nerds,” but whichever word we use, the sentence still begins the defense of not only people but of the wonder certain people have for common things. And if we’re careful to heed the Spirit of God, such wonder will lead to worship.
“We might, no doubt, find it a nuisance to count all the blades of grass or all the leaves of the trees; but this would not be because of our boldness or gaiety, but because of our lack of boldness and gaiety. The bore would go onward, bold and gay, and find the blades of grass as splendid as the swords of an army. The bore is stronger and more joyous than we are; he is a demigod–nay, he is a god. For it is the gods who do not tire of the iteration of things; to them the nightfall is always new, and the last rose as red as the first.”
The gods do not tire. No, the angels themselves are the “nerds” of the universe and, along with the 24 elders of Revelation 4 and 5, they encircle the throne of the Lamb in worship by the tens of thousands, forever reiterating God’s worth. They see the creation and love it for what God made it; they know the proper time for awe is always.
I do not always worship, and I do not always love the grass of the field or the work my garden requires; I tire of the iteration of things. It is good, then, that I have children, for they have taught me to be a bore. They have not feared repetition. As they age, they are “growing out of” this tirelessness, and my desire is to remind them–and me–that childlike wonder is of eternal importance.
“For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Jesus tells us, and I need to remember that. We enter the kingdom with the faith of a child, but we continue in wonder and worship as his children when we acknowledge God and his beautiful work–especially in daily, common things.
Yet, adulthood looms. Routines persist, and we do tire. How, then, do we renew wonder? Like so many worthwhile habits, we must practice.
Is such a thought counterintuitive? We might think if something is wonderful and we’re seeing it, or hearing it, or tasting it, then its inherent wonder will seep into us. We won’t be able to resist! True, some things won’t be missed. Yet, this whole idea seems to be connected with what Jesus said about his parables, “Let those with ears, hear.” Can’t you imagine there were those who came for the food or the healing, only to hear about mustard seed?
And, thinking back to Lewis, would we really miss the wonder of traveling to and walking on the Moon? I know that it would be so. If we are not stirred by the wonders always with us, a new or fantastic place will not change us. We must be softened by God’s Spirit. We must ask to see his wonders, and we must practice looking for them beginning with this thought: “This exists; now, let’s see how it is wonderful.”
Our eyes and our ears tend to close–not only in our back gardens, but also in the presence of our LORD, the One who is a consuming fire, the I AM. However, here is wonderful news: We serve a God who uses our weaknesses for his glory. Paul says the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Depend on him to open your eyes, and you will see anew the abiding strangeness of our holy God–maybe beginning with the moonrise in your own back garden.