THE GIFT OF WONDER
Some Thoughts By
Gary Ray Branscome
written, "But Mary kept all
these things, and pondered them (wondered about them) in her heart."
Wonder has been called the act of
philosophy because it is basic to inquiry, and thus basic to learning
and to every intellectual discipline. In fact, wonder is one of the
things that differentiates men from beasts. While cattle may observe
the world around them, and may see a gate swing open to let them
through, they never wonder about what they see. Their mind never asks
why the gate is there, or desires to understand how it works. For that
reason, people who never wonder about the things they see and hear are
acting, to a certain extent, like animals. And just as animals can be
manipulated and controlled, they are often swayed by political rhetoric
and promises, without ever seriously analyzing what has been said. Like
animals, they can also be swept to and fro by emotions and desires that
they do not understand and are at loss to control (Titus 3:3). However,
wonder also helps us to deal with those emotions and desires, for it
helps us to detach our thoughts from our feelings, thus freeing our
thoughts from control by the flesh.
THE HUMILITY OF WONDER
A person who is full of wonder cannot help but be a
thinking person. At the same time they will never be a “know-it-all,”
for they will never assume that they have a corner on the truth. On the
contrary, wondering is itself an inner admission of one’s lack of
knowledge, for we can only wonder about what we do not know.
By wondering about the concepts that
various words were intended to express, those who wonder rise above the
shallow use of words that is common in our society. Furthermore, as
they ponder those words they do not manufacture answers or assume
meanings the way a “know-it-all” does (Romans 1:22). Instead, they
wonder about the different ideas and explanations that arise in their
mind, and they continue to wonder until their questions are answered.
In contrast, the proud in heart seem more interested in professing to
know than in actually knowing (Luke 1:52).
Since the word “pride” is sometimes
denounced as evil, and at other times praised, there was a time when I
wondered about the word “pride.” On one hand I was told that I should
take pride in my work, pride in my appearance, and so forth; on the
other the pride of the Pharisees was denounced. Furthermore, when I
asked about this seeming contradiction I was told only that the pride
of the Pharisees was a false pride, and that did not answer my
question. However, as I kept the question on the back of my mind,
wondering about it from time to time, I gradually came to see that the
pride of the Pharisees was a false pride because it was based self
deception. They thought that they were more righteous than others when,
in truth, that was a delusion (Luke 18:11, Isaiah 64:6).
understanding provided a certain amount of insight, it still did not
fully answer my question as to what pride was. A few years later,
however, I came to see that the word pride is connected with the
concept of having nothing to be ashamed of. In other words, to have
pride, is to care about doing things doing things in a way that we have
no reason to be ashamed of. To take pride in our work, is to do a job
so well that we have no reason to be ashamed of what we have done. At
the same time, we would be deluding ourselves if we thought we had
nothing to be ashamed of before God, or that our works made us superior
to others. In fact, God is so holy and pure that even our righteous
acts are corrupt and detestable in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). For that
reason, we can only stand before God unashamed, if our sins are
forgiven. And forgiveness comes only through the blood of Christ!
THE OPEN MINDEDNESS OF WONDER
Since a person who wonders, will want to
know why others hold the opinions they do, and why they think
differently than he does, he cannot help but be open-minded. At the
same time, he will not accept every idea that is thrust at him, for he
will be wondering if those ideas are sound, if there is any evidence to
support them, or if the arguments given in support of them are sound.
For that reason, one who wonders will be more stable intellectually
than one who does not.
You will notice
that when I speak of being open-minded I am not talking about the
pseudo open-mindedness of those who denounce all who disagree with them
as narrow. Instead I am talking about a loving spirit who cares enough
about others to want to understand what they believe, even if he winds
up totally disagreeing with it. Therefore, true open-mindedness does
not consist of a willingness to accept every opinion, but of a desire
to understand where other people are coming from.
Have you ever
wondered what the word “own” really means? I am not talking about
defining the word “own” by a synonym such as the word “possess.” That
would be nothing more than replacing one word with another. I am
talking about understanding the thought that the word “own” represents.
In other words, what do we actually mean by the word “own”? Many people
never really think about it, however, we can think much more clearly
when we have a clear understanding of what words mean. Therefore, would
you agree that every person has a circle of authority? If so, would you
also agree that ownership denotes a certain degree of authority or
control over what is owned? Are you beginning to understand what I mean
when I speak of the idea behind a word? The idea that word was intended
to express? Once you begin to think in ideas, you will be less likely
to be deceived by cliche and rhetoric.
Have you ever
wondered where the concept of two extremes verses the middle came from,
or who determines what is extreme? Have you ever wondered why Joseph
Stalin and Adolph Hitler, who are as alike as two peas in a pod, are
portrayed as political opposites? The answers may surprise you.
THE CHALLENGE OF THINKING IN ACCORD WITH GOD’S WORD
Because the Bible gives us so many things
to wonder about, a person who is full of wonder can find God’s Word
challenging and stimulating. For example, since every design must have
a designer, any rational person might conclude that God exists.
However, the Bible lifts our thoughts about God out of the shallows and
recasts them in three-dimensional color simply by revealing the mind
stretching truth of God’s three-one nature.
It is easy for
those who have never learned to wonder to read their own ideas and
assumptions into the text of Scripture. However, someone who is
continually wondering if that interpretation is correct, will not be
satisfied with anything less than the actual grammatical meaning of the
words. For example: When certain people read that God created every
living creature “after his kind” they read their own assumptions into
the word “kind,” and then assume that the Bible is wrong because we
sometimes encounter variation from one generation to the next.
Nevertheless, in their haste to have all the answers they have
overlooked the obvious. For it is obvious that robins produce robins,
bluebirds produce bluebirds, and catfish produce catfish. Furthermore,
if we sometimes encounter limited variation from one generation to the
next, then the passage was never intended to say that we would not. In
other words, it was intended to express the reality we see all around
us, not some unrealistic absolute.
When those who have
a gift of wonder encounter something in Scripture that they cannot
explain, instead of assuming that the Bible has erred, they wonder what
God was intending to say. And because they want to know the intended
meaning, they will accept all that the Bible says, while never
interpreting one passage of Scripture to contradict another (Isaiah
One spiritual advantage of learning to
wonder, lies in the fact that once we have learned to wonder we will be
less likely to deny our faults. For instance, if we are accused of
being rude, instead of angrily replying, “I am not rude,” we will be
wondering why the accuser thinks we are rude. This attitude is of great
value in recognizing our sin and thus in seeing our need for