Wondering - Eleesa Jensen

Eleesa writes a beautiful piece reflecting on childhood wonder, encouraging us to reflect on our relationships with God, with the wonder of creation.

Photo by @ashtoncurtisfilms

Childhood wonder

I’m eight years old lying face-down on the trampoline, looking for four leaf clovers through the mesh. I’m old enough to know that they don’t actually bring good luck, but I want one because it’s a cool idea. There’s no deadline to this and no particular meaning. The sun is warm. There’s time.

I’m eighteen years old sitting in an air-conditioned lecture hall, complaining about the humidity outside. I’m old enough now to know about things like Purpose and Time Management and Five Year Plans. We’re all learning, but most of us are only learning to pass our exams. The goal is clear. We have to move forward.

God sits in both of these places, wishing one would welcome the other in.

Growing up in our world means becoming useful. Constant striving for utility, maximum efficiency. Worth is measured by output. What are other people seeing? We define ourselves by what we do, and though we don’t like to admit it, often define our relationships by what they do for us as well.

It has become increasingly normal to cut people off if they ‘just aren’t doing it for you’. Even learning is built on pragmatism: Okay, so what does knowing this do for me? Everything is action, always.

I am not denying the importance of doing, but maybe more important are our motivations for our doing. If I’m constantly living to achieve some goal (be it stability; evangelism; personal growth), I’m going to become anxious and proud. Anxious because I need control, proud when I have it. I’d argue we’re a chronically anxious and proud people. That isn’t how we were created to be.

Sometimes people like to use small children as an example of untouched, ‘real’ humanity. When you work with them, you often joke about the things they do that don’t serve any purpose. It’s senseless and endearing to us adults that a kid can be so excited about a handful of weeds or a bubble machine. They’re so sentimental.

Modern philosophers grapple with this sentimentality. What does it do? If you read any old, crusty textbook on child development, you will hear dozens and dozens of theories of learning. Throwing cups out of a highchair, that’s them learning about gravity. That’s motor-skill practice. To an extent, that’s probably true. I would argue that the reasoning of a little kid is far simpler than that, though. They do things out of a place of genuine fascination and enjoyment.

“Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew chapter 18, verse 4

A lot of people take this verse to mean having ‘blind faith’ – some spiritual naivete. When I was younger, I heard it used as an argument against asking deeper questions about God. Or, to tell us to keep moving forward in life without trying to take ownership of it. Work hard, head down. Be obedient.

Too busy for wonder

The problem with this interpretation is that it forgets how many big, silly questions kids ask. They have the luxury of time, and they use that time to be relentlessly curious. To gape at the bug on the sidewalk. To make mistakes, to chase fairies, to ask “What’s this? Why?”.

The thing my eight-year-old self had that I keep forgetting is childlike, over-the-top, slack-jawed wonder. If my striving comes from a place of awe, anxiety and pride won’t be such a big issue anymore. I’m too busy holding God’s hand asking questions about it all. I would argue that it takes far more humility to walk wide-eyed through life than to put it upon yourself to achieve, achieve, achieve even in God’s name.

But as adults, how do we rediscover our wonder?

I have a random fact replaying in my head at all times. It’s that it is really, really rare for us to be able to stargaze. In most other parts of our galaxy, the stars are too far away or close together or too dim or too bright to play connect-the-dots with. We’re in the perfect position, not just for our existence to happen, but for us to draw pictures in the sky.

Most of the time when we’re thinking about God, we think about what we need to be, or what purpose he might have given us, or reasons or rules or routines. We set big goals and tell ourselves we’ll be ‘better Christians’, whatever that means. We think about “I should do” and “I should not do” and forget this is the same God who gifted us with daisies to pick, sun to lie in. With running, spinning, swimming. With stargazing.

Wondering in creation

There is a spirit of playfulness to be found wherever God touches, and maybe you start to see it by lying flat on your back and waiting long enough for your eyes to adjust. As if when you slow down and look around you, your picture of grace solidifies.

In the end, you can’t self-forget and Christ-focus by navel gazing. My life changes every day just as I look up.

The sun is warm. There’s time.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans chapter 1, verse 20

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians chapter 1, verses 17-19

Eleesa Jensen is a year 9 youth leader at Windsor Park. She is currently studying Psychology and Education at the University of Auckland and likes to paint in her spare time.

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