If you ask my 12-year-old son what was the most amazing thing about our once in a lifetime trip to Europe a couple of years ago…and then run past him the magnificent cathedrals, or landmarks or museums, or even Harry Potter World… he’ll tell you it was Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
And when he tells you that, you might marvel at his appreciation of gothic style architecture or 13th century stained glass or his understanding of medieval theology that is built into the soaring vaulted ceilings and 70 metre towers…if you press him a bit more and can pin him down for a bit of a chat, he’ll tell you it was the pigeons that were the most amazing thing…and he would have spent a whole day there if it was possible, feeding the pigeons, holding out his arms and having them fly down and eat rice from his hand, sitting on his head…running through the masses of birds on the ground and seeing them fly up as one and then settle once more behind him.
The capacity to be amazed seems to be something we lose as we get older. We grow old and cynical and grumpy and tired and the only thing that can still amaze us is the stupidity of others.
G.K.Chesterton once wrote about the importance of the capacity to be amaze: “We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.”
The great American poet Mary Oliver says it even better:
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement…
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
It seems to me that the gift of being amazed, of having the capacity for wonder, is an important part of a faith that others will find compelling. When we are intentional about finding and naming the gifts that we are given day after day, our vision will be lifted, our joy increased and our lives will be wonder-filled once more.
During that same European holiday, the very best coffee I have ever had was in a 13th century farmhouse in a small village in the French countryside. It was Ethiopian coffee, made with the Turkish method by a Croatian woman and shared with two Australians, a Slovakian and a Swede (with a French goat staring in through the window).
It was a moment of wonder and amazement – about diversity, and community and friendship and love – in a single cup of coffee, in a most unlikely place.
As we enjoy our lives together as part of our Anglican family in SEQ, we could do worse than to practise amazement – to see the world as if for the first time through the eyes of a child. It is a wonderful antidote to the tired, cynical vision that so often clouds our view and a great way to ensure that we don’t end up “simply having visited this world.”