Wonder, the launching pad
January 30, 2008
Utilitarian pragmatism is often an accurate description of the ruling paradigm of many leaders. In politics, it is called realpolitik. In business, it is called the bottom line. Avoiding airy-fairy ideas, trained to read balance sheets rather than music scores, leaders are bred to "make the trains run on time."
We know instinctively that such patterns create narrow, stunted thinking and living. Caught within a small vision of what matters we shrivel up, pulling with us friends, family and vocational colleagues. As our life shrinks, creation is lost.
What then does one do to keep from being led down such narrow paths?
I can think of a way: nurture wonder.
We were a family of five children. Dad was a "bishop" overseeing small churches in Saskatchewan. Money was scarce. When we made eight years of age, each of us got jobs. And seemingly there was money enough for what mattered.
It didn't occur to us at the time that a particular action on the part of our Mom was rightfully placed in the "wonder" category.
A young classical pianist was coming to Saskatoon. His name was Glenn Gould, later to become the most famous Canadian pianist. One day Mom told us we had tickets to his concert. Out of her grocery money she had saved enough to make sure we kids heard this young prodigy. Our small Pentecostal church, resonant with Gospel, and Country and Western music, was hardly the breeding ground for classical music. Mother knew her children needed something else.
Her push to entice us to appreciate more than the rock and roll of Elvis and Buddy Holly, or the guitar strumming ballads of Johnny Cash helped build in me a love for music-wonder. Music of Bach, Rachmaninoff or Oscar Peterson—with even a little Bill Gaither thrown in now and then—creates a moment when the relentless demands of leadership are set aside, and the soul is given space and time to wonder.
What is your best way to wonder? Life doesn't arbitrarily find us and push us into wonder. It may happen on a starry summer night. But such episodes are only occasionally caught. Wonder is a sought-after "launching pad." It takes conscious effort to find time, to look for spaces in which we shift from a dead-line pattern to musing and marveling.
Advent is now behind us. The constant chatter and clutter of what I was told was a "festive time" depressed me. More stuff was neither what I needed nor what I was inclined to buy for others. However, I did find in one gift a moment of wonder. It was in reading "God With Us," a newly published book for Advent with the most marvelous of paintings of a 2000 year tradition.
Build into your life—which means schedule—events, times, and places for wonder. A concert. Time in the country. Set aside balance sheets and stroll through an art gallery.
Your leadership will absorb new texture. Your mind will see higher than the closest horizon. Your newly nurtured soul will surprise and inspire those you lead. Find a launching pad so you can be lifted into orbits of the Lord's gracious and creative worlds. It matters we know what He has made.
Wonder Maker, creative Mind, and loving Lord, instead of me being saddled in bureaucratic numbness of getting-more-done, help me find a launching pad of Your creative wholeness. In this world of Your genius and making, I wish my life to have layers of wonder, a life choosing to see, feel and believe. Help me actively step outside the work-ring of my own making into the wider wonder of Your love. Amen.
Wonder is the only launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life.