We live in a world where things move along with a certain regularity. Night follows day, and day follows night. The seasons unfold at about the same pace year after year. Spring, summer, fall and winter are as predictable as the cycles of the sun. In the midst of all that steadiness, it is easy to become prisoners of the routine and forget just how wonderful life really is.
Thornton Wilder wrote a play about that which he called “Our Town”. It is the story about Emily who lived in Grover’s Corners until she dies in her early twenties. Then she wants to go back and revisit her earthly life. After much discussion with her heavenly neighbors who warn her that she will be terribly disappointed, she is granted permission to re-live any twenty-four hour period that she chooses. So she goes back to Grover’s Corners for her twelfth birthday.
She is amazed most of all at the dullness of her family and friends. There they are with so many wonderful things to see and do and experience, but they seem to be lost in a maze of the commonplace. She tries in vain to capture the attention of her parents, to make them see the beauty of each moment; but they are too involved in the worries of the day to even see its higher meaning.
“How blind they are,” she says, “they live in a box.” Then she asks the conductor, “Do any people ever realize life, all of it?” “No,” he answered, “I don’t suppose they do.”
Just the daily demands of living can rob us of our sense of wonder. That, I suppose, is one of the worst things that any adult can ever do. The capacity to wonder is God’s gift to us, and none of us had a right to take it away. We should not do that to anyone; and most of all, we should not do that nor allow the world to do that to ourselves.
In his autobiography, Andrea Gide recalls an experience from his boyhood. It was a warm spring day. He was sitting in arithmetic class, but all of his thoughts were out of doors. Inevitably, his mind wandered and his eyes drifted toward the open window. Suddenly, he was utterly amazed at what he saw. There on the window sill at that very moment, a caterpillar was becoming a butterfly. He watched with awe as those beautiful wings began to emerge from the casing of the cocoon. Finally, he could contain his excitement no longer and shouted to his teacher and classmates to come see this wonderful thing that was happening.
All of the children gathered around, but the teacher was impatient with this needless disturbance. He rebuked Andrea for his uncontrolled enthusiasm, reminding him that this event really wasn’t marvelous at all. It happened all the time, and everyone except the very simple knew that and paid little or no attention to it.
Gide said something happened to him that day. He was embarrassed and ashamed. His capacity for wonder was badly wounded, and it took a long time for it to heal.
We do not know what lies ahead. There will be hurt and heartaches, pain and problems. But there will also be many marvelous things. May God give us the eyes to find and the heart to experience and see a few of them. The truly wise persons in this world leave the room in their lives for wonder.