June 10th, 2014

I think I can sum up my life — particularly my spiritual life — in one word: distracted.

One Sunday, I had a church council meeting after the service and then a memorial service for a former church member an hour drive away. During worship, all I could think about was the upcoming meeting. During the meeting, all I could think about was the memorial service I was going to be late to. During the memorial service, since I was returning to a church I once worked at, all I could think of was who I should say "hi" to and who I hoped to avoid. Physically present, mentally distant. Distracted.

Earlier this year, my wife and I became foster parents of a three year old who has slight mental delays. Through him, I'm learning how truly present the present is and how to be appreciative and grateful of the things that are here and now. I don't think he can quite comprehend "later" or "tomorrow." All he knows is what's happening right now. And he finds complete joy in that. He finds so much excitement over a bowl of cereal. He’ll emphatically put his hands together to ask that we pray. Then he’ll go to town on that cereal saying, “ray-al” (his word for cereal). After a couple of bites, he’ll put his spoon down, put his hands together and say his word for “prayer” that is also his word for “thank you.” He’ll do that with all food.

He'll look at the fountain in front of our bank, gasp and say, "Whooa!" and then proceed to point and clap alerting me to this great and joyous thing in front of us. His joy and happiness are so contagious you can't help but laugh with him. He gets excited over things that we adults take for granted. A bird. A butterfly. A flower.

At times, I feel the adult in me wanting to say, "Kid, it's just a flower.” I have no idea why, instead of joining him in joy and awe over creation, I find myself wanting to say that.

The world does a great job straining the joy and wonder out of our lives. Part of that has to with the fact that we move through life way too fast. There are so many things to do, so many demands to give in to, deadlines to beat, meetings to attend. We live a life of move, move, move and do, do, do.

When we're playing with our kids, we're thinking about the trustees meeting that's coming up. When we're out on a date, we're distracted by the thing someone said to us earlier in the week. When we're on vacation, we're worried that the world will fall apart without us being there.

Human doing has replaced our call to be a human being.

I feel like my foster son is reminding me to stop doing whatever I'm doing; stop thinking whatever I'm thinking and just be. To share in the glorious delight of the fountain that is bubbling in front of us. To be thankful for the Honey Nut Cheerios we eat morning after morning! To understand that joy can be found in every moment of the day, and it's only mundane because my perspective is mundane.

Abraham Heschel once wrote: "I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me."

I’m learning what a great prayer it is to ask God for wonder. As an adult, I see that a lot of the world has lost its wonder. Nothing’s new under the sun. It’s easy to become bitter, cynical, and jaded. I’ve seen too much for wonder to remain.

Through this kid, my heart (and eyes) are being (re)opened to the wonders of the world. Finding joy in blowing dandelions, the oohs and aahs of seeing a butterfly, the excitement of a plane flying over us.

My prayer is that I move from distracted to wonder-filled. Maybe you need to join me in that prayer.

I'm thankful for the lesson that this three-year-old child has taught me — to be alive in the here and now, to find excitement and joy in the things I'm doing and the things around me, to look at the world with awe and wonder, and to be physically, mentally, and spiritually present—here and now.

May we all ask for wonder.

Joseph Yoo is pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, CA. He is the author of Practical Prayer and Encountering Grace from the Converge Bible Studies series. He blogs at JosephYoo.com.

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