It’s a curious thing about wonder: sometimes it surprises you. Out of nowhere, a sunrise splatters pink across the canvas of sky. A snowflake lands on the window, and all at once you’re eight years old again.
But other times wonder is a little more elusive. Sometimes we have to get up off the couch and hunt it down.
Ever since I was a kid, my family has had a tradition of going for a walk in the woods on Christmas Eve. The tradition originated years ago, on a moonlit night when wonder came up from behind and sneak-attacked us. The snowflakes were falling, plump and sparkly, and the moon cast full shadows on the snowy ground.
We kids were all ready for bed when someone peeked out the window and said, “Oh, it would be such a pretty night to go for a walk!” We all lamented that it was too late to go when Dad surprised us with this proclamation: “No problem! Just put your snowsuits over your pajamas!”
And so, on that magical night, the Midnight Moonlight Walk was born.
As I’ve gotten older, though, there are years when the wonder wanes. This year the ground was wet and sloppy, covered in mud instead of glistening snow, and the moon was obscured by clouds. And truth be told, midnight no longer seems as exotic as it once did. It was tempting to stay by the fire sipping hot cider and eating another round of cookies. There was also the matter of my sister’s baby, sleeping soundly in her crib.
But my sister, my wonder-full sister, would hear nothing of the excuses. “Let’s get the baby up!” she said. “She can’t miss her first Midnight Moonlight Walk!”
And so we strapped little Addie into her carrier, donned our coats and boots, and armed ourselves with flashlights. Just a few steps onto the trail, I stepped in a large puddle. Shortly thereafter, I was accosted by a protruding tree branch. I wasn’t feeling the wonder.
Then I looked at Addie’s face, wide eyed and sleepy but taking everything in. Her bulky mittens made fine motor skills a challenge, but that didn’t stop her from pointing at everything we passed. “This!” she said, her gaze following the beam of the flashlight. “This!” “That!”
As we were finishing our walk, we arrived at the top of the hill, with Mom and Dad’s house lit up just below. The scene before us would have made Currier and Ives envious: the soft glow of lights, the smoke coming from the chimney, the Christmas tree in the window. We’d been sitting there only minutes earlier, but at the time I couldn’t have appreciated the beauty.
Sometimes, I think, we have to get out of our comfortable space and look from a new angle to see the beauty we already have. Sometimes we have to move to a new vantage point so we can chase down the wonder.
We may never be able to predict wonder, and surely we can’t hold on to it for long. But if we’re awake and looking for it, we just might be ready when it launches its sneak-attack.
The older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder, and only God is big enough to do that.