“I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel
My whole life I have struggled needing to be in control. The lighter way of describing this is to say that I am a planner. I like to know what’s happening. I think we all feel this way in varying and lesser degrees because one of the fundamental things about being human is that our lives are wildly unpredictable. We try to cling to what is knowable in the face of so much that is unknowable about how we will live. We meet this uncertainty in a variety of ways–with fear for what we do not know and cannot control, with trepidation that turns us inward and timid and sometimes with a head strongness that presses into what is unknown as though the pressing can shape what cannot be.
It wasn’t until I discovered hiking that I discovered what it is like to plan something so perfectly–researching and choosing a trail, carefully packing water and other needs into a pack, examining the weather and selecting appropriate gear–and be surprised by wonder. It does not matter how many photos you look at online or how carefully you plan your hike. There is a moment where you turn a bend or pull yourself up over a ridge or look up from where you were focused on planting your feet to see the sunlight stream through the trees and what was unplanned takes your breath away.
Once I could name this experience that I began to understand why I have always been such an avid reader. I live for the way a turn of phrase or a well crafted sentence can open up a new idea like the tight bud of a new flower in the spring sun, of the way a well done story can open worlds. When you open a book or embark on a trail you don’t really have any idea where you might be taken.
It is in these small practices that I have discovered a sense of wonder. Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.” Wonder is a spiritual practice, it is a matter of having a heart that is willing to be open enough to be surprised by God’s beauty and love. Wonder is also a practice of trust in divine goodness and willingness to surrender to what you think ought to happen in order to be surprised by what could be. It is a centering practice of creativity and a way to connect to God’s invitation to be a part of what is good and beautiful being created in the world.
It has been only when I have asked for wonder that I have been able to meet God in the creative spaces of my life. It has only been in asking to be surprised that the unknown has shifted from being something to fear to something to great with joy. In asking for wonder, God has given me the chance to ground myself in joy, rather than fear.