Tag Archives: wonder

Unchristian Certainty

30 Sep

I am walking with youth through a unit on Faith and Science. Can you believe in God and science, the Bible and evolution? Can you seek God in what you know as well as what you don’t? I’m finding the matter at hand repeatedly comes back to unfair assumptions about certainty. Certainty has become a value of society. It helps young people (dare I say all people) feel competent and worthy of being taken seriously. We associate it with confidence and knowledge. All too often we look to our political, scientific and religious leaders to exude certainty. In the midst of uncertain times, we wager it may help us feel safer. It rarely does.

At the core of both faith and science is not certainty, but wonder. Boiling either area down to certainty limits it greatly. It limits God. The deeper we get into the disciplines of both science and religion, we gain knowledge, yes, but also awe. Modern-day astronomers look up at the stars and think more and more that we are not alone, that we may never have one set of scientific rules to live by, that we are made of the stuff of stars.

Maybe it is time for all of us to embrace doubt as a friend:

Doubt then is not our enemy but our great friend. For it keeps us from the most unchristian of things: assuming that we possess certainty, that we need not think about our faith or love our neighbors, and worse, that we become certain is no longer (by definition) faith; it has become idolatry, where we no longer seek out a living personal God but make this God into a frozen idol. The truth, then, is that there can be no relationship at all when it is based on certainty. I cannot really love my friend and embrace the fullness of his being if I assume I know him with certainty, if in being with him I keep saying, “I know you; that’s not what you think. I don’t need to hear you, see you or learn from you. I know you certainly. You cannot change.”

–Andrew Root and Kendra Creasy Dean, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry 

The seriousness that Root and Dean bring to the matter of doubt and relationship is refreshing. Indeed, we do not want to limit our loved ones with certainty, so why ever would we want to limit God? Embracing wonder and doubt invokes love yet again, where we leave room to be surprised, we leave room for growth.


15 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

The characters in Jesus’ story who have captured my imagination this week are the wise men, or magi, or kings. We think if these men as learned and wealthy, that with their titles and expensive gifts. They are not the type of folks we typically imagine packing up their things at the sight of a star to head off to the unknown hoping to meet a new king. Yet this is exactly what they do.

These men were clearly waiting for a Messiah and hoping he would come soon. Their hope and excitement urged them to take a chance on this particular star.

What was it about this star they saw that convinced them to pack up and take a quest? Are they foolish or brilliant? Did other men scoff at them, sighting reason and logic that so often override our wonder and awe?

We so often make the mistake of replacing wonder with knowledge. We pit science and religion against each other. We see God getting smaller instead of bigger as we learn more about the universe. Yet we are living in an exciting age where science is re-embracing wonder. We are curious about multiple universes and admitting the more we know the more we realize we don’t know. We are embracing wonder as the beginning of wisdom.

I think these men have something to teach me. They are inviting me back to a place of wonder where I can encounter God. Their journey to pay tribute to this baby shows humility, wonder, openness, and hope that I want to embody in my faith life. They show the lengths they are willing to travel, literally, to encounter God. In addition to keeping their noses in their books, they also turn their faces to the sky, recognizing that faith requires both our intellect and our wonder, our ideas and our willingness to be in authentic relationship. They understand that part of worshipping God entails taking risks and venturing into the unknown. They know they are on a sacred journey and remind me that I am, too.


All the Way Up

16 Oct
Photo via Flickr user Paul Bica

Photo via Flickr user Paul Bica

So many Minnesotans I know say their favorite season is fall. The mornings and evenings are crisp, offering respite from the humid, mosquito filled summer days and inviting tea, socks and blankets back into the routine. The days are warm, the shadows are long and the colors are stunning. It is a time of apples, pumpkins and layered clothes.

This fall has been gorgeous, no exception. This year, in part because I am introducing fall to my curious baby boy, I am reveling in it like never before. We go on morning walks to explore, crunching and collecting leaves. I share in his wonder, and notice that fall brings a new perspective. As we are surrounded by tree leaves on fire with dying, I am reminded of the cycle and fragility of life. These leaves, exploding with color before dancing their way down to the ground, invite us to look up. All the way up.

I spent the summer looking up. Simon loves watching planes fly over our house, so we took regular breaks in our playing to look up to the sky. This fall, we’ve shifted our gaze ever so slightly, which has made a big difference. Instead of just looking up, we look all the way up. Straight up, beyond even the planes. Several times over the last few days I have caught myself watching the leaves fall in the wind, and then my eyes keep going to look past them at the sky, straight over my head. My breath catches, and my being fills with the vastness of the universe. All it takes is a moment. I feel so small, in the coolest way possible. I feel aligned with the curious humans over thousands of year who have looked all the way up to wonder after the moon, the stars, the galaxies. Our new discoveries about Mars, instead of limiting the wonder, has grown it.

It’s good for the soul, I think, to spend some time looking to the heavens in wonder. It’s so easy to keep our heads down, focused just on the world we can see. The local place, only what is in front of our faces, becomes our entire universe. I’ve realized that I’ve had my head in this world, my nose to the grindstone, if you will.

I’m grateful to the fall leaves for inviting me to be aware of the cycle of live around me while inviting me to feel small and amazed at the vastness of this place where we dwell. Now, on our morning walks, I remember to take a moment to look up, all the way up, and fill my soul again with awe. I come back to ground level with renewed, refreshed perspective.

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