“Wake up, O sleeper…” Ephesians 5:14
I spent last weekend at a Richard Rohr conference just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The retreat center was on Native American land and one of the recurring themes was, “Wake up to the wonder around you!”
We were encouraged to take time to notice some of the amazing things in that beautiful setting: flowers and trees, the magnificent night sky, sunrises and sunsets. Everywhere you turned there was something to astonish you.
The conference focused on the contemplative life and the main message was, “Don’t be so busy, so preoccupied that you fail to experience wonder, because a sense of wonder turns us toward God.”
All of us get so caught up in making a living, doing what has to be done on any given day that we lose our sense of wonder. And when we do, we also lose our connection to God.
One of the conference speakers was a Scottish preacher who shared a rabbinic legend about two men who experienced the parting of the Red Sea but never looked up. Above was a magnificent pillar of fire, protecting them from the Egyptian army. On either side was a wall of water, held back by some amazing force. But these two men, Rueben and Simon, totally missed the miracles around them because they were staring at their feet plodding through the mud:
Simon: I cannot believe they are forcing us to walk through this ankle-deep mud.
Rueben: Why this is just like the mud we used to make Pharaoh’s bricks!
Simon: Yes it is. All of our lives we have been trying to walk through this awful mud.
Rueben: Slavery and freedom are really the same, aren’t they? Nothing but mud as far as you can see.
If you’re like me, you hear this story and find yourself reflecting on how many days you’ve spent complaining about the mud instead of basking in the wonder of miracles all around you.
The contemplative life is about waking up to Reality—raising your gaze beyond the mud to be astonished.
I heard a mother, now in her 40s, share what she learned from her first pregnancy.
Early one morning about halfway through my pregnancy, I was given a thought during my quiet time. There is a child growing inside me who is totally dependent on me for food, for oxygen, for life itself, and she has no awareness that I even exist. At that moment I realized: This is exactly how it is with us and God. We are totally dependent upon God for nourishment, for breath, for everything in our lives, but most of the time we haven’t an inkling that God is even there.
The first step toward transformation is to wake up. One path to awakening is to notice the wonder all around you.
If you could find a few minutes today to look up from the mud you’re walking in, the Saints who have gone before you will surely cheer you on. Because when you notice wonder, you’re awake.