On living a life of wonder and curiosity
I once had a spiritual director who had a marvelous habit I’ll never forget. I’d bring a problem to him, or a joy, a cross I was carrying, or an overwhelming gift from God. Approach it with wonder and curiosity, he’d say. Wonder and curiosity. It’s been a while since my regular meetings with him, and I’m afraid to say it’s not a habit that I’ve taken hold of as well. But thanks to some recent developments, those words of his have resurfaced in my mind, and I’m starting to realize that they have the power to change everything.
I happen to be in a really wonderful season of life. Really really. I just got some thrilling news, and I have some delightful adventures coming up, and I’m feeling particularly loved by many friends. I’ll wake up way too early some mornings but be too excited to get back to sleep. There’s much to look forward to. A friend of mine recently asked how he could pray for me on an upcoming retreat he’s attending, and I replied, Oh, just prayers of thanksgiving! I am feeling overwhelmed with joy! Just call me Pollyanna.
But, I’ll be honest: this is not my usual mode of operation. My status quo involves plenty of joy, sure, but a lot less gratitude, and a good bit more complaining, and maybe a touch of pessimism, and surely not a continuous sense of wonder and curiosity. But God, in His goodness, and in this current season He’s orchestrated for me, is waking me up. Because now that I am tasting it, just a tad, I want to live a life of wonder and curiosity. I want that to be the norm. It’s a perfectly lovely intention, to be sure, but how to actually bring it to fruition?
I was recently reading a beautiful issue of Imprint, a quarterly publication by the Sisters of Life, this one entitled “Reclaiming Wonder.” (How perfect.) Sr. Mary Margaret Hope writes, “At times, there are experiences that arrest our hearts, spectacular scenes that break through the clamor of our lives: blackouts that reveal the stars, fierce thunderstorms, snowcapped mountains, and sunrises over the ocean. Yet it is not only in exceptional moments that we can touch the mystery of the Divine. God is revealing Himself constantly to us through creation.” Amen to that. Yes, I am most definitely soaking up this season of abundant graces and joys and consolations, but I do not want to be a fair-weather friend to God. Exceptional moments aside, how can we notice the beauty that God always provides? How can we notice the small ways He is working, even when we’re tired or cranky or just plain going through the motions?
Approach it, whatever it is, with wonder and curiosity. Wonder at God’s mystery, cultivate curiosity at His grand plan for our lives. Exercise your imagination, and allow yourself to dream. Are you suffering under a particularly weighty cross? Think ahead to the fruit that it could bring. Are you longing for something that seems impossible? Don’t stifle the longing, but gently notice it, sift through it, marvel at its strength and thank God for planting it in you. Are you feeling restless or dissatisfied with your current state of life? Wonder at the breadth and depth of your mind and heart, imagine what adventure that restlessness could lead you to.
And there are more concrete steps we can take, too. Sr. Mary Margaret Hope also wrote of watching a seatmate of hers scroll through a dizzying sequence of images on Instagram in the span a mere ten seconds. It brought to mind my own technology use, and the way it must smother my ability to wonder and marvel at God’s creation. Yes, I love to see the way others capture beauty, the delights of their daily lives, the smiling faces of happy friends. But there must be a downside to that habit of mine in viewing even that which is true, good, and beautiful, in such rapid succession. I don’t pause and linger on one image; I am always hungry for more. I imagine it’s akin to speed walking through a vast art museum, with the sole goal of seeing as many pieces as possible. We cannot approach life with wonder and curiosity if we do not stop and notice and contemplate.
Forming this habit is a process, to be sure. It’s one that I’m only just beginning now, at a time when it’s particularly easy to do so. But my prayer, for me and for you, is that we would embrace the invitation to discover the beauty that’s all around us, the beauty instilled by God in creation, the beauty through which God intimately reveals Himself to us. That, through slowing down, and giving thanks, and seeking to delight, we really would begin to live lives of wonder and curiosity.