by Dr. William Powell Tuck, friarsfragment.com, retired pastor, professor and author of soon-to-be-released The Forgotten Beatitude: Worshiping Through Stewardship, A Positive Word for Christian Lamenting: Funeral Homilies, The Church Under the Cross, and more!
Suddenly it dawned on me I was dying. I was beginning to allow routineness, habits, a style of living, patterns of observation, daily practices, customary ways or methods, and orderly procedure to groove for me a rut for life which leads only to death. I was startled with the realization that if I were to live, I must come alive to life.
Alan Torey caught this thought when he observed that everyone must learn to understand the “Ah!” of things. Instead of AH, our age is more accurately characterized by BLAH. As we have grown older, we have lost our sense of wonder, excitement, awe, and the very thrill of living itself. The world has grown black and gray before our eyes, and the breathtaking color of life eludes us as a cloud covers our eyes like cataracts. We go through life partially or totally blind to its marvels and wonders.
The other day I was carried back to the land of nostalgia as I listened to an old song over the car radio about a little boy playing in his tree house with a wooden toy horse and a purple bear named Biff. What adventures he engaged in! He fought off Indians, outlaws, and pirates along the flowerbeds, which became a pirate’s cove; the top of a lawn chair represented a mountaintop, and the flowers became a thick forest.
I remember well those years. We have grown older, you say, and we have put away such childish things. What a shame to lose our child-likeness as we outgrow things!
Is it not really to be dead already when you have lost your ability to be moved with awe by a sunset, stirred within by the beauty of the fall colors, a good book, play, movie or song, astonished continuously by the wonders of God’s creation and the inventiveness of humanity, awed with a sense of incredulity at the marvels of your own hand, your heart, a bee, an ant, a monkey, a skunk, a flower, or a newborn baby? You are no longer thrilled by your steamy breath on a glass door in freezing weather, the softness and whiteness of newly fallen snow, the unsure first few steps of a young child, or the breakthrough into the world of reading for a first grade child.
Oh, the wonder of it all! Life is so wonderful and awesome, why is it that most of the time we remain dead to it? We are surrounded by mystery and wonder, but most of us simply take them for granted.
Faith Begins in Wonder
Do you not suppose that this is at least part of what Jesus meant when He said that no one could enter His kingdom until he became as a little child (Matthew 18:1-3)? Genuine faith begins in a rebirth of the sense of wonder and awe. Jesus knew us well, didn’t He? He knew there had to be something radical in our lives – a turning around, a reorientation, a new direction, a, new beginning, a new start. Why remain in death when we can come alive to life?
Scientists tell us that there are at least three characteristics of all living things. Living things take in food or some kind of nourishment. The big fish feeds on the smaller fish. The smaller fish feeds off insects and other smaller creatures in the water. The owl and fox hunt for mice. Flowers draw nourishment from the sun and the soil. Some animals or insects pursue their prey, while others simply wait for it to come to them, and they catch it as it passes by or bumps into them. A rock does not eat; it is not alive. Taking in food is a distinguishing trait of living things.
Growth or the repair of one’s organism is also essential for life. When a branch is broken off a live bush or tree, it will repair itself and grow a new stem with more leaves. New life will go on. That is true with some insects, animals, or fish. If a portion of their anatomy is broken off, the body will repair itself. Rejuvenation takes place and a new part is grown. By contrast, a smaller rock does not grow into a larger rock. If my leather shoe sole gets a hole in it, it does not repair itself. It is not alive. I have to get it repaired. Growth for human beings takes us through stages – from a baby, to a child, to an adolescent, and finally to adulthood. Growth is a part of being alive.
Anything that is alive also reproduces itself. Life continues through seeds, eggs, the birth of live babies to human beings and lesser animals. Reproduction is an essential quality of living things. Automobiles do not give birth to smaller cars. They are not alive; they are made.
Bring these characteristics of aliveness over into the spiritual realm, and you will note that all three are essential if you are to be alive spiritually. A person who is alive feeds upon spiritual food as well as physical food. We cannot be nourished and sustained without it.
When you and I were infants, we ate anything that we could get into our mouths. In fact, that is one of the things you have to do to protect a small child. You have to keep them from eating any and everything around them. When I was very small, one of my delightful delicacies was the black dirt underneath the front porch of my grandmother’s house. I enjoyed crawling under there and tasting that dirt. My parents had to keep me away from it. Children will sometimes eat paint off furniture, consume hair, swallow pennies, or all kinds of other things. We have to protect them from those harmful things, because we know that this kind of diet is not good for them.
Some of us wonder why we have such a hard time growing spiritually. Look at what many of us feed on spiritually. We consume only those things which entertain or delight us. We spend little time in nourishing the spiritual side of life.
Our desire for food arises out of a sense of need. We know that if we do not have food we cannot survive. This is also true with our spiritual life. Our spiritual appetite arises out of the need we have to be fed spiritually. This fall and into the season of Thanksgiving, I want to remain open to the wonders of the world around me and within me and be grateful!