New Year, Unexpected Wonders, and Tremendous Trifles

“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” -G. K. Chesterton

The New Year is always a time of introspection for me, both intentionally and unintentionally. I try to look back on the previous year, see where things went right, and perhaps where they could have gone a bit differently, or even could have used a tremendous overhaul. Throughout the process, I also discover where I did O.K. for myself (that’s God’s grace rather, not me), and also where I fell completely short of who I am supposed to be, who God wants me to be, and fell flat on my face (ah yes, there’s me).Then I try to evaluate my goals for the coming year, what I am looking for in life, and finally, but most importantly, where I need to let God penetrate in my heart in order to more fully conform myself to His will (and hopefully avoid falling flat on my face again, but we all know that won’t happen; praise God for confession). In other words, I try to find Chesterton’s “wonder” in my life, a wonder that I could not quite put into words until I read the essay from which the above quote originates (praise God for a friend who is better read than I am).

But where does the “wonder” that Chesterton speaks of come in? In other words, what’s the Hobbit getting at???

Careful and the greatest wonders will pass in the blink of an eye… An image of Earth taken from Apollo 8. Source: NASA / Bill Anders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I think sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the introspection and minutiae, so intent on trying to put everything together, we miss the fact that He, the creator of the cosmos and master of the universe, is right in front of us. There’s Chesterton’s wonder. We miss the wonder in so many ways… In the Eucharist when we receive Him out of habit, or when we visit Him in adoration and let our minds get bogged down by the minutiae of our lives. In the homeless person we try to avoid eye contact with in order to get to our destination faster. In the friend who is suffering a loss, when we keep talking about our own problems, our own tribulations.

I was talking with a good friend today, someone whom I have not had a chance to really chat with in a very long time. As we sat outside in Capitol Park, our conversation ranged the gamut of a variety of subjects, but at one point we got to talking about our vocations. Both of us have had, shall we say, a bit of a journey when it comes to vocational discernment. This person mentioned that in the end, it was selfishness that prevented us from seeing God’s plan, and I think that is true. We want this or that, but what does God want? Is our will aligned to His? Selfishness and pride keeps one from discovering the beauty and wonder of His grace, and how it will unfold for that individual person. For my friend and I, I think it wasn’t until we allowed, and I mean really allowed, just a bit of that wonder to enter into our lives that we began to see where God truly wanted us.

So yes, I think we miss the wonders because we are selfish. We miss the wonders because of our pride. Sure, we want to become great, and think we have it all together, but as Chesterton alludes to in the above referenced essay, in seeking out the greatness in our lives we forget that we need to be small, and in that smallness, the “Little Way” of St. Therese, we in fact discover true wonder, the presence of God in all that we encounter.

On a side note, I think Chesterton and St. Therese would be (and perhaps are!) very good friends. Anyway, back to my droning…

In the end, it leads back to Chesterton’s quite tremendous trifle: if we become too introspective, too big, and too wrapped up in trying to figure out where everything is going, we are being selfish and not allowing God to take control, and thereby allowing the wonders to pass by, whether these wonders be people, places, events, or just quiet moments with Him. We become so big to see the mountains, we miss the tiny flower that points us in the right direction. We need to be small (hey, I already have a head start!). We become stagnant and fail to take action. In our “bigness” (yes, that’s a word; I double-checked) we may become invulnerable and believe that everything is as it should be, sure, but it is not an invulnerability to be sought after or cherished, because this kind on invulnerability stifles wonder, and even love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” -C.S. Lewis

So for this new year, let’s examine, let’s make our resolutions, which can be fine and good, but then let’s move. Let’s not become too big for ourselves that we lose sight of God’s wonder, which is probably sitting right next to us. Take action, and see the world. See the wonder, rather than getting wrapped up in a coffin of selfishness and pride. After all, a world without wonder is a boring world indeed.

Pax.

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