The importance of wonder in our path of faith


It was Good Friday and I was sitting in the vicarage garden. Good Friday is a heavy day and I was feeling heavy-hearted. The run-up to Easter is a very demanding time for ministers. Yes, of course it is also joyous and wonderful.

But there I was having been on a Walk of Witness through the streets of Brent and taking a moment to myself before going in to lead another service.

It was then that I was joined by a friend, or should I say, brother. I am taking my lead from Saint Francis here who called the wild animals he bumped into brother and sister. He didn't do it as an affectation, but he meant it.

He understood creation to such an extent that he saw everything in it as valuable and precious. He didn't fall into the very modern problem of seeing human beings as outside creation.

I am the vicar at St Cuthbert's in London and our saint, in common with other Celts, had extraordinary encounters with wild animals. They managed to save his life and he made friends with them. According to the legend, the wild sea otters warmed him up after chilly prayer sessions in the water.

I was reminded of all this as I looked up and saw on the handle of the chair next to me a friendly robin. I've been dropping him bits of food and chatting to him over the four years that I've been here. He is a bonny little creature. I sometimes hear his beautiful song even when I can't see him.

In the winter we sometimes don't see him for a few months (I am told he may holiday with other robins in Portugal or Spain). But every spring, there he is back in the garden. This time he was closer to me than normal and he was taking a good look in my direction.

He appeared to have no fear of me at all. Instead, we looked at each other for a considerable time and I even had a good talk to him. I thanked him for his company and wished him well and prayed that he would stay safe. I don't know if he understood me. But he perhaps responded to my tone of voice.

What I do know is that I felt a sudden burst of wonderment. It was abundantly special. I am not alone in this kind of reaction to the planet that we share with other life. Indeed, the wonder of creation is one of the ways that so many experience that sense that there is something very special at the heart of the world.

I am interested in wonder partly because I am writing a book about it but the question I really want to answer is: what does a life that values wonder actually look like? 

And the reason I want to know this is because I have lost sight of wonder on so many occasions and I want to know why. I want to rediscover wonder more regularly – not as an isolated experience but as a way of life and faith.

It matters because life has a habit of knocking our sense of wonder – we grow up, we leave school and then there's work to contend with. It is so easy to lose sight of the everyday potential for wonder and amazement that surrounds us all the time.  It's so easy to take our eye off what really matters and forget that God is in all of that and is the source of those moments when we feel a sense of awe at life and all that we have.

I still feel wonder that I am a Christian. That has never left me and I still feel awestruck about God.  As a Christian, I don't ever want to lose that. 

But that has also been topped up with other experiences that help me to see that the world is far more than we can see and touch. The more I've reflected on it, though, the more I've realised that wonder has a habit of creeping up in unexpected places, be that church or somewhere totally different.  In those places where we least expect it, God's gift of wonder can show up and transform the moment.   

For me, just gazing out at God's creation is an obvious place to start any journey towards wonder.  But the key generally, I have come to believe, is to have an attitude of wonder and an openness to it. If like me, you struggle to retain that sense of wonder, take a moment today to stop what you're doing, look around and give God thanks for all the good things in your life, big and small. 

Rev Steve Morris is the parish priest of St Cuthbert's North Wembley. Before being a priest he was a writer and ran a brand agency. In the 1980s he tried to become a pop star. He is the author of 'Enterprise and Entrepreneurship: doing good through the local church' The Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics, £4.99. Follow him on Twitter @SteveMorris214