Slow Down and Embrace the Wonder

One of the things my children love to do is go on walks. Going for a walk usually means them taking a scooter, or balance bike, or some other toy to ride through our neighborhood as they think about a destination. Recent destinations include a pond, or a certain house with Halloween decorations, or a little book nook. It never ceases to amaze me how different my two older children are. My daughter wants to ride 90 miles per hour and get to her destination. That desire is only eclipsed by an even greater desire to get home faster.

But my son, who takes life full throttle in every other setting, will turn into a tortoise as soon as we hit the sidewalk. He runs straight into the neighbor’s grass because he’s looking at the pumpkins on their porch. Then he’ll run into the next neighbor's grass because he’s looking at their giant blow up cat whose head moves about 30 degrees every fifteen seconds. Then he’ll stop to pick up a dandelion and blow it. Then he’ll stop to pick up an acorn. Then he’ll stop because he found a stick that he wants to take home. Then he realizes he can’t ride very well holding a stick and stops to ask me to hold it.

This used to annoy me (to be honest, it still does sometimes) because I’m like my eldest child, constantly pressuring the younger child to speed up. The whole episode is one big trial of my patience.

But isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? My children aren’t frustrating me because they are immature. My children are frustrating me because I am immature. What my son is teaching both my daughter and I to do is to be present, to notice the world around us — to enjoy being a little person in a big world, rather than trying to be a big person in a little world. Destinations and agendas play into my ego and make me feel in control and important. They make me feel justified because I’ve gotten something done. Who would I be if I didn’t accomplish something, if (heaven forbid) we simply walked around and looked at sticks or acorns or a cutsie blow-up cat poking its head out of a cutsie blow-up pumpkin? The Lord gives us the gift of being together and it often isn’t good enough unless I add something to it. And he knows that I won’t change unless he gives me the gift of children to teach me to slow down and be with them because that is what he’s inviting me into — being together.

This is what I’m learning about giving thanks in all circumstances. It’s because he is present in all circumstances. Sure, he’s with us at the destination, whether it’s a Sunday gathering, a small group meeting, or a quiet time. But he’s also with us on the journey as we read that angry email. He’s with us when the company downsizes and we may lose our home. He’s with us when we hear the sound of the leaves blowing in the wind or crushing under our feet; when we feel the chill of last night’s frost or the warm mug in our hands. He is with us!

I have found that giving thanks is deeply connected to wonder; wonder is connected to being present; and being present is connected to slowing down (for me, at least). When I slow down, I am more present to the Lord around me and in me. When I slow down, I am more present to the world and to the people around me. Then my heart is filled with wonder and I can’t not give thanks.

Grace & Peace,

Josh Wilder