People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. –St. Augustine
A little less than a year ago a very chatty, earnest man read this quote as he gave his story of faith to a group of us Christian Chinese and American brothers and sisters gathering in China. He talked about the contrast between a time in his young life when he’d been ignorant of God’s work, and led a seemingly blissful existence until his first marriage crumbled, and he gradually found that he did not want to go through life unaware of God’s intent to love and care for him.
His experience of loss led to a sort of awakening, a sense in his late fifties that life now was far richer now than it ever was then. At times I found his exuberance, his verboseness overbearing, incessant, relentless, but I also remember with fondness the speed at which his eyes darted back and forth, paralleled only by the pace at which his mind bounded from one topic to the next.
His curiosity, his quickness to wonder, was quite simply, like that of a child.
As I opened the bulletin to the contemplative service last night at the small church in Egypt, my eyes rested on this same quote from Augustine, the meditative script for the service. And as the preacher began to talk of the great mentors, the activists for nonviolence, and those who had suffered greatly who so inspired him, or the element of risk-taking that supposedly separates human beings from animals, I myself, could only think of this man.
I began to wonder if all the experiences in the world, without faith like a child, really mattered, and balked at the seat of wisdom being closest to the seat of humility. It’s a strange game we play in life, attempting to disarm others with our accolades, experiences, and depth, but it seems a far greater thing to simply realize and receive what God holds out to us–our humanity, in all its dimpled plainness, and the grace to revel within it.