I once made my mother retrieve an imaginary dog for me.
As a child, I had a thriving family of imaginary friends: my best friend Sarah (who lived in a red house in New York), Dan Marino (because we watched a lot of football back then), and Shaggy the dog. They went everywhere with us, even when we did grocery shopping for my grandmother. And one day, at the end of just such a trip – as my exhausted mother hauled the last grocery bag to the top of my grandmother’s steps – I turned to my mother and said, “You left Shaggy in the car.”
My mother looked at me, at the countless grocery bags sitting all over the floor around me and my grandmother, and then back down the steps she’d just ascended countless times. And then she said, “You’re right. I should go get him.” And down the stairs she went, down the hill to the driveway, where she coaxed my invisible dog out of his hiding place in the trunk and back up the stairs to me.
My grandmother laughed herself to tears every time she remembered it. But it wasn’t an unusual sort of occurrence. My mother was purposeful about cultivating the growing sense of wonder in me.
We had sword fights with Christmas-wrapping rolls. All sorts of small celebrations. Screenings of The Grinch with hot chocolate and cookies at Christmas. She kept a trunk full of her old clothes for me to play in and didn’t object when I once picked up a backscratcher and “patrolled” the entrance to our kitchen like a soldier. She attended every single midnight screening of The Lord of the Rings with me and, when I said I thought I might write a novel, encouraged me to get to it. Even now she calls to tell me funny jokes or sends me smiley faces because she knows they make me happy; she encourages my dreaming and my whimsical ideas.
And through all of these things, I have developed a playful, marveling delight in and curiosity about the world. It doesn’t take much to give me joy or to fascinate me, and I can embrace the ordinary as remarkable.
This quality of wonder is also a godly one. God is a god of wonders (Psalm 40:5), and He has a strong sense of wonder as well. We witness it in Him in Genesis, when He brings an entire parade of animals before Adam, “to see what he would name them” (Gen. 2:19). He loves dancing and songs and rejoicing. He gave us a world where the fennec fox exists, where sunsets are violent and tangerine, where snow falls and rain falls and flowers spring up from the ground.
Jesus loved invoking wonder too: he conveyed his messages in stories, sketching out memorable characters and images of fertile earth, of banquets for lost sons. He welcomed little children, those with the purest capacity for wonder, and laid His hands on them. With His disciples, He lived a simple life that was still brimming over with love and enthusiasm and deep joy.
Wonder is a quality that we must embrace and cultivate as believers. We live in an often-cynical world, heavy with pessimism. Unironic enthusiasm and delight sometimes seems out of style, and out of step. But as Christians, wonder is part and parcel of our experience. We believe in a marvel – in the resurrection, in Christ Himself – and our faith hinges on “great and unsearchable things” that we do not fully know (Jer. 33:3). To be grateful for small and simple things, to accept the nature of God and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, to take pleasure in the world around us, to find hope in the midst of despair, to abide in joy: those acts of faith are all grounded in a spirit of wonder. So let yourself be free to marvel. And free others to marvel, too. Our faith is not a solid and stagnant one, but one in which we were meant to take great delight.
Wonder, enthuse, enjoy. And don’t you dare step on those who do. In this, you share a heart with God.