Wonder. We wander, like an aimless autumn leaf drifting in the zephyr, pondering what to wonder, and wondering where to wander. It comes full circle. Yet, this question can boggle the mind – do we wonder enough (or too much) and do we wonder right? Perhaps if we were to look deeper we can better capture the multitude of nuances in this wonder of a question.
Perhaps we are somewhat similar to Alice in Wonderland in this world. As children, we were filled with awe and unadulterated curiosity about the world and how things work. But as we grow up, and life turns complicated, things turn awry, days become mundane, turning awe to bore(dom). Consequently, we stop wondering so much and simply continue trudging on, like a hamster scampering on the spinning wheel.
We all know that wandering aimlessly in this life is not desirable. God is the one who can bring direction in the labyrinths we face. So what place does wondering have in this search for direction? What’s the best for us to do?
Once upon a time, a master owned four different birds. A peacock, an owl, an eagle and a dove. He wondered which of these birds would be the most competent companion of his. So he tasked each bird with a mission – to protect a golden egg from being damaged or taken by a herd of wild cats. Each bird was given a golden egg placed cosily on a nest upon a tree branch. They were told that the eggs were invaluable and must not be taken away. And so they commenced their mission.
Before long, the vicious wild cats came and beleaguered the peacock’s area. The peacock did not bat an eyelid, thinking that those grotesque creatures would simply be awe-struck by his elegance – they wouldn’t dare to come any further. Well, the peacock was wrong. The wild cats lunged ahead towards the nest, ignoring the peacock, climbed the tree and retrieved their prize. The flabbergasted peacock was left wondering why his beauty had failed him.
The wise owl was not so lucky either. The wild cats swarmed over to his nest. The owl, perched on the branch, remained still, thinking hard and formulating a strategy to ward off the cats. But the wild cats were swift and would not wait for nightfall to arrive before pilfering the golden egg. And so they did and the poor owl was left dumbfounded.
The lofty eagle watched and laughed at how inept his competitors were. They could not act in time at all. As he thought, the wild cats confronted his nest. As each cat came, the eagle would swoop and flash his razor-sharp talons at the cat to scare it away. But the cats had numbers on their side – perhaps too many for the eagle to handle and he soon fell victim to fatigue. Little did he know that a mischievous cat had already sneaked behind him to steal the golden egg.
The master watched his three birds fail him and sighed. What could he expect of birds after all? The meek dove watched and remained calm and thought about his mission, though simple as it may have seemed it required more thought. All of a sudden, the dove spread his wings and took off. The other three birds scoffed at the apparent cowardice of the dove who abandoned his mission. Before long, the wild cats finally arrived at the dove’s area. They were all ready to claim their unguarded trophy. Just before they could make their leap of glory, the dove returned. He had returned with a message, a message from leader of the cat herd who then appeared at that juncture and instructed the cats to stay put. Uncanny as it seemed, the dove had made a truce with the cat leader. During the negotiation with the herd leader, the dove explained his situation. Apparently the birds’ master had deliberately set the location of their trial in the favoured domain of the wild cats which elucidated their hostility. The dove agreed that the four birds would vacate the area for the cats. Also, along with his comrade birds, the dove would guard the area to prevent rodents or uninvited guests from intruding. The eagle could easily do so during the day and the owl’s wisdom would shine at night. In return, the wild cats would return the three stolen golden eggs.
The master was impressed. Thanks to the dove, who could think and act in time, no egg was broken.
The story above displays some parallels to our faith and living out Christian lives. The diagram below illustrates four traits we can display pertaining to our faith or situations in general. For different aspects of our lives and for different settings, we can fall under a different category.
At times, we can get complacent with our faith, thinking that we can manage by our own strength in our lives. Like the peacock, it may be pride getting in the way and we refuse to wonder how we can improve our faith journey or our walk with others towards Christ. We may be satisfied with the way our lives are going. Little do we know how wrong we may be until that golden egg of our lives is subtly taken from us. Broken relationships, burnt bridges, hurts and grudges silently besiege us. But we think it may not matter and fail to see the bigger picture. Our mind, like a one-way track, only permits thoughts that fuel our own desires and whatever float our boat.
Perhaps we are not totally complacent but are contemplative – revelling in thoughts about how things should work or how to make things better. We wonder. We wonder what to do, how things will turn out, whether there is enough time, what people will think of us etc. We are inundated with questions. We want to be healed, to forgive someone, to take that leap of faith, to talk to someone or to journey with friends. But it may appear too difficult. Or perhaps we simply don’t know how to do so. We just have to trust in God and draw strength from Him for He will provide. He will provide His people with what is necessary to do His work. But yes, we have to be contemplative in prayer. And at the heart of it all, is love. Love. Love will purify our thoughts, wonders, intentions and actions.
Action. The “Do” word. As we grow up and take on more responsibilities, there is more “doing” to do. Whether it be serving in church, at the workplace, at home for the family or with friends, we are always preoccupied by the myriad of tasks to handle. Seldom do we find the time to stop and think, to wonder, to wonder about the simple blessings God has given us in our everyday lives, to wonder if we have neglected anyone or failed to love others properly, to wonder how our relationship with God is really going, to wonder about many important things in our lives. Everything has become like a task to settle, an objective to be reached or a chore to complete. Amidst the hustle and bustle, like the eagle in the story, we can become fatigued, jaded, or dried up. When our hearts are hardened, love struggles to surface. Perhaps it is not so much of the doing but the “being”. The “being” a brother or sister in Christ to another is more important than doing a favour for someone without love. We should not be machines, simply reacting to what occurs around us.
Like the dove, we ought to be proactive – to wonder with purpose and to act with love. Perhaps many of the problems in life can be solved by being proactive in seeking out the root of the problem and nipping it in the bud rather than to wait and let the problem come and clog up our already busy schedules. If we are always sleepy and cannot concentrate at Mass then we should find ways to sleep earlier to get more rest before Mass. If we truly want to help someone perhaps we need to take time and effort to listen and understand what he/she is really going true and to love him/her as a person or a child of God. This path may not be easy and we thus need to turn to God to grant us His graces to do so. It may involve us leaving our comfort zones like how the dove left his area to find the herd leader. This would likely mean displaying certain vulnerability in order to feel for others, to be human. But it is for the greater good. After all, Jesus displayed the greatest vulnerability for us by becoming man and being crucified for our sins to redeem us.
So why do we not wonder much is not the only question to ask. We need to constantly reflect upon our faith to better understand what we can do to further God’s kingdom here on earth. Of course, we have to take that leap of faith and act, to act with love towards others. So let’s pray for the humility and meekness of a dove, courage of an eagle, wisdom of an owl, and that God will, in His time, show us things as or more beautiful than the peacock. J
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33