Awaken Wonder

Scott JamesBy Scott James7 Minutes

Wonder is contagious. When we’re in awe of something, we have a natural tendency to tell others about it so they can marvel at it as well. Whether it’s a book, a movie, or a restaurant, humans are inherently gifted evangelists, spreading the good news of whatever we hold to be wonderful at the moment.

As a parent, I have the privilege of helping my children curate wonder. They are born worshippers and their hearts are continually casting about, looking for something marvelous to behold. The world parades an endless stream of enticing spectacles in front of them, so I’m trying to shepherd their hearts toward what is truly worthy. In doing this, I find encouragement from Paul’s directive in Philippians 4:8—“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” For my family, this rubric is helpful in thinking through where we will invest our attention and interests on a daily basis. If we’re going to be filled with awe, let it be because of something that honors God.

While my family is seeking to focus on what is true and honorable and praiseworthy, I think it’s only wise that we center this effort on Jesus, who perfectly embodied these things. When I tell my children the beautiful story of how Jesus came on a rescue mission to save us, I am in a sense attempting to reorient their natural bent toward wonder and worship. I am asking them to look to the Savior who is truly deserving of it.

As Easter Sunday approaches, we have a golden opportunity to point our children to this Savior. His miraculous incarnation, his holy life, his substitutionary death—all of it is captivating, but based on passages like 1 Corinthians 15, I think Jesus’s resurrection stands out as the epicenter of our wonder. No matter how many times I read the story about that empty tomb, I can’t get over it. To this day, I am in awe of Jesus’s death-defying feat and, like any good evangelist, my awe overflows as I tell this story to my children again and again. I’m planting seeds and rejoicing when I see that look of wonder blossom on their faces as they grow to love Him more.

But, while wonder is contagious, the flip side is that it is not always durable. We’ve all had that experience in one way or another: enraptured by some shiny new widget, we quickly begin to take it for granted and the thrill fades. Familiarity may not always breed contempt; sometimes it just breeds a cool indifference—and a loss of wonder. While I am certainly not comparing Jesus to a widget, I do want to be aware of the fact that my children may become so familiar with the story of the resurrection that it loses its luster. So, what should I do when my children seem to be taking the awe-inspiring news of Jesus Christ for granted? What can I do when the wonder fades?

First and foremost, I am led to pray. Because, no matter how good of a storyteller I am and no matter how contagious my own wonder may be, awakening my children’s hearts to the glory of God is not ultimately within my power. Yes, I hope to adorn the gospel and clearly communicate the beauty of Christ, but it is the Holy Spirit alone who will stir them to an appropriately awe-filled response. So, I appeal to God to soften their hearts and awaken their wonder for his glory.

As I am asking God to capture their hearts, I am also seeking to keep his word front and center in their lives because I know their awakening will only come “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Rather than just flying over Bible stories in a compartmentalized and disjointed way, I want to dive in deep with them in a way that shows them just how vast and glorious God’s redemptive plan is. There is something particularly special about helping a child connect the dots to see how Jesus is at the center of the Bible’s grand storyline.

Even if we zoom in more, there is also something special about simply tracing a particular subnarrative or text through its course. Holy Week is a great example of a story arc you can walk through with your kids to help them dive into God’s Word. Draw them into the story and show them Jesus—look at who he is, what he’s like, how people react to Him, and what seems to motivate Him. Follow Him day-by-day and discuss his determined compassion as he sets his face toward the cross. Mourn with his disciples as he enters the grave and then watch their fear give way to matchless joy when they come face-to-face with the risen Lord.

How do we awaken godly wonder in our children? By prayerfully tending their hearts, diligently leading them into God’s Word, and faithfully calling them to marvel at the glory of God. Most of all, we trust in God to work through these ordinary means to do the miraculous work of raising them from spiritual death to newness of life. That may seem farfetched, but I know a mind-blowing story from the Bible about a once-dead man walking out of his tomb, so anything is possible.