The announcement of a promotion for my husband, Leif, had required a move, and we had spent every waking hour boxing up all we owned and saying good-bye to loved ones. We weren’t moving far: ninety-two miles to be exact. But in southeast Alaska, where the only way to travel between islands is by air, boat, or long frigid swim, miles multiply in people’s hearts.
Rumors circled of the inefficiency and unreliability of the ferry system connecting the regional ports, but remained the only practical option for the move. We soon feel asleep in our seats.
When I awoke, something compelled me to look up, and a scene unfolded that I suspect caused at least one angel to gasp: the expanse of the sky transformed from inky blackness into an infinite canvas on which brushstrokes of apricot, sapphire, and emerald painted themselves into the night sky. Like an oil painting in progress, the colors refused to stand still. The hues danced as if listening to jazz. Iridescent shades sharpened then faded with wild fervor.
Even though I lived in Alaska for five years and witnessed the northern lights more than a hundred times, none compared to that night. I still savor the encounter and live in hopeful anticipation of another. Though we now live at a lower latitude on the outskirts of a major city notorious for its light pollution, on many nights, you’ll still find me scouting the sky in hope of catching another glimpse of the wonder.
It occurred to me that this is the posture we’re supposed to take in our spiritual journeys. God delights for us to cup our hands in prayer and scrunch our faces against the vault of heaven in holy expectation that he will meet us in beautiful, mysterious ways. The Creator desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with himself—displaying facets of his character, igniting us with his fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of his holiness.
Often such incidents occur when we least anticipate, leaving us wonderstruck much like my encounter with the northern lights. But the insistent invitation of the Spirit is to stay alert! Eyes wide open. Hands pressed against the glass. We never know when or how God, like the aurora borealis, will appear. But we can live each day trusting that the God who met us in the past will once again greet us with arms wide open in the future.2
Despite the breathtaking moments of God that I’ve experienced, all too often I find myself like so many of the other passengers on the ferry, deep in sleep, missing the moment. I succumb to exhaustion rather than remain alert to the wondrous displays that reveal more of God.
I recently began noticing this in my life in increasing measure. I no longer waited on God with hopeful expectation. Icy religion replaced the delightful warmth of being a child of God. Though I expressed gratitude at the appropriate moments, in the depths of my spirit, I wasn’t appreciative. Words of praise may have lingered on my lips during worship, but when the song ended, so did any trace of enthusiasm.
The sense of holy awe was replaced by unholy indifference. Hope diminished to a manageable emotion. Love became a fleeting expression in short supply.
Yet God met me there. And it began with a prayer for wonder.
What are the wonders of God in your own life that you fail to marvel or even sleep straight through? How often do you pass by God’s presence and handiwork unaware?
I double dog dare you to pray for wonder and live expectant for how God may choose to answer.
Adapted from Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (Worthy Publishing 2012) by Margaret Feinberg.