Amazement and Sin
This instrument, sadly, is broken. It gets calibrated incorrectly. If amazement means having our expectations broken, then our amazement reveals what we think of as normal. And what we think of as normal can be incorrect.
People were positively amazed by the miracles of Jesus, but they were also amazed—negatively—when He broke their social conventions. The Pharisees were appalled that He didn’t wash before eating (Luke 11:38), the disciples were shocked to find Him talking to a woman (John 4:27), and Pilate marveled that He gave no answer under trial (Mark 15:5). This shows that people’s idea of normal involves both accuracies (a normal person can’t raise dead children to life) and inaccuracies (a normal person must conform to our customs).
Our capacity for wonder gets calibrated wrong in a few different ways. For one, it is often short-lived. We acclimate to what is beautiful so that it becomes part of our expectations. We are no longer provoked to wonder by the burning red of geraniums or inspired to marvel by watching the subtle eye movement of an infant making meaning of her world.
Another way our amazement goes wrong is in how shallow it is. Our minds don’t connect the beauty that amazes us with the cleverness of God. The red in that geranium is the expression of a cosmic genius. The eye movement of a baby is a neurological masterpiece on display. Even in those moments of wonder, we are often satisfied with the pleasantness of these experiences in themselves and do not connect them to God’s wisdom and goodness.
Amazement and Faith
When a Christian, by faith, increasingly sees the world as God does, his capacity to sense beauty is sharpened. His instrument for amazement is calibrated to what ought to thrill him and, on the other hand, shock him.
Our pursuit of amazement is sanctified by higher purposes. Instead of seeking merely the pleasurable feeling that accompanies a discovery, we pursue wonder to increase thankfulness. Our hearts sing not with discovery itself but with discovery of the ultimate source of all beauty.
Even Jesus marveled. He marveled when He found faith in an unexpected place (Matt. 8:10). A man who had not been raised to know God believed in the One He had sent. The desperate father’s faith was beautiful to Jesus. He was in awe of what God found beautiful, even when no one else was that impressed. God found it beautiful because He had placed it there. Jesus’ emotional response was His recognition of this fact.
As Christians grow in faith, they will likewise find wonder where no one else does. It is the increased capacity to use wonder for what God designed it for: as a sensor of what is beautiful and out-of-the-norm for a broken world, ultimately preparing us for a world where beauty is the norm.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on March 12, 2018.