A cursory search for the etymology of the word wonderful shows it is derived from two words. The words “wonder” and the word “full”. This should not be surprising. But what is interesting is that the word wonder is an old word describing something that is miraculous or astonishing. Therefore, when we say that something is wonderful we are describing the quality of the object to which we are referring. That it is something marvelous and worthy of being astonished at.
We too often use words like this in ways that may not necessarily measure up as well as we might think. Many times we describe things as wonderful that are truly aesthetically beautiful or pleasing to the eye. They just may not necessarily be filled with wonder themselves. And I’m not trying to get too technical at this description of the word. My desire is merely to highlight the unique attribute of how this word had been used and may be found useful to use again.
Within the Christian faith, there are several things worthy of being wondered over. Things such as the grace of God in his mercy, the sacrifice of Christ for sinners, and even being able to gather together with other believers. I know that not everyone would agree that these are wonderful. But I think that’s part of the problem. The fact that these things exist and that we can be partakers of them is exactly what makes them wonderful. Just because they may appear to be ordinary by the standards of some does not make them any less astonishing.
Of all the things which we could find wonderful, the presence of God among his people is one of the most astonishing of them all. How God is able to do that is a mystery. But it is not a mystery that has been kept hidden from us. It is a mystery that now resides in the open. For when we gather to sing and celebrate, to study and share our lives together, to serve those around us we are told God is among us as well.
It is through the simple acts of living life, aware of his promises, that it becomes a reality to us. Too often we try to fabricate a divine encounter by using means that stimulate our emotions. But that only serves to cloud God’s presence in our lives. There is a sense in which our ability to apprehend those things filled with the quality of producing wonder requires a stillness we are not always comfortable entering into.
Every year in the 40 days prior to Easter we are given an opportunity to slow down. To take some time and look back over the course of our lives and the previous year and remember God’s faithfulness to us. And it’s not that we always can see God’s faithfulness. But learning to accept that it is really present even when we’re not as aware of it as we would like.
This is why when I think about those things that elicit wonder in me I think of God’s presence permeating the world in which I live. Similar to the oxygen that I need to breathe but cannot see, God surrounds us with himself.