Do you remember the first time you ever saw the ocean? I am not sure how old I was, but I will never forget standing on the edge of the shore staring drop-jawed at the endless Atlantic before me. With absolute awe I looked out amazed at the vastness before me and for the first time in my life caught a glimpse of eternity here on earth. The ocean is still a pretty amazing sight, but I no longer have that boyish veneration when I stare off into the ocean’s horizon.
Several years before the death of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel he suffered a near-fatal heart attack. His closest friend was at his bedside. Heschel was so weak he was only able to whisper: “Sam, I only feel gratitude for my life, for every moment I have lived. I am ready to go. I have seen so many miracles during my lifetime.” The old rabbi was exhausted and after a long pause, he said, “Sam, never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”
Indeed, a life lived well is one that is filled with wonder. Each day we stand at the precipice of wonder, but so often turn around to more immediate concerns. The wonder of an “eternal ocean” gives way to the knowledge that it has fixed boundaries found in continents on the other side. The wonder of an evening thunderstorm is reduced to the prosaic analysis that it is just warm air running against cold air creating static electricity. Good theology, good worship and good faith, I believe, leads us to discover or rediscover the wonder around us and among us.
Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, writes: “Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter – in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of the eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer…in a child licking a chocolate ice cream cone…God intended for us to discover his loving presence in the world around us.”
No doubt this summer will find you busy with the events of summer – some routine and others spontaneous. I hope you take time to smell the metallic air when a storm approaches; or listen to the evening chorus of tree frogs singing the compline while lightning bugs flicker in the woods; or just linger at the ocean listening to waves.
One of my favorite writers, the late Thomas Merton, opens his book Seeds of Contemplation, with the following, “Every moment and every event of every man’s [sic] life on earth plants something in his soul…we must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good.”