I started reading Abraham Heschel’s classic book God In Search of Man a few weeks ago and have been captivated by the prevailing thread that is woven throughout the first pages of the book. The thread is wonder, awe, amazement – something I’ve not thought a lot about and probably taken for granted. “Life without wonder,” Heschel writes, “is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder” (p. 46). “Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin,” he adds (p. 43).
It just so happens that my reading of this book has coincided with an event that has given me opportunity to exercise that wonder and amazement of late. We welcomed our third child into the world at 3:11 AM on Wednesday morning, March 26. And though I was tired, I was overwhelmed again with awe.
The whole sublime experience elicits this wonder. The birth itself, even as messy as it is, is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring events a person can ever experience. It’s all the more surreal when you are one of the two individuals responsible for bringing the child into the world. Truly, the miracle of life never ceases to amaze me. I said it to Camille a couple times as we sat alone in the delivery room, waiting for her contractions to get closer together, with the baby’s heart monitor echoing throughout the room at 130 beats per minute: that short journey from the womb to the doctor’s hands is truly the longest journey in life. All that time, effort, blood, tears – just to get an eight pound baby to take that six inch journey from where she’s resided for the last nine months. It’s astounding.
And yet, the awe doesn’t cease after the birth is over. I had forgotten just how amazing it is to have a newborn – to hold her in your arms and look into her little eyes and sense the helplessness, dependence, innocence, and inarticulatable trust. But not just this: to see the potential – the blank page that is a little baby. She has her whole life before her. Her story is just beginning, and it could go a thousand different ways. And yet we, her parents, have incredible influence over how the chapters are written – a thought not to be taken lightly.
Of course, it also goes beyond this. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” the Psalmist declares (Psalm 139:14). I don’t know how anyone can witness birth, or look into the eyes of a newborn, and deny the existence of God. Sure, there are scientific explanations for how it all happens, how our body works together in unison to keep our hearts beating. But such explanations don’t eliminate the awe; they simply reinforce it. The physiological and biological complexity, all working together in concert, inspires the utmost reverence.
So I thank God for this wonder, this awe, this amazement – all elicited by a tiny little 21 1/2 inch baby named Winslow Eve that I need as much as she needs me.
And like Heschel, I want my story to be: “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me.”