Love In A Big World: Wonder

December 1st, 2017

The Monday before Thanksgiving, I went with my son and his classmates on a fieldtrip to see the movie Wonder, based on the best-selling book by R.J. Palacio. The students and teachers had read the book together earlier in the year as part of their social and emotional learning initiatives. As I sat with these sixth-grade boys from urban Nashville, I pondered how they would respond to this movie about a kid their age named Auggie Pullman with Treacher-Collins Syndrome, resulting in a facial deformity. Would they relate?

Maybe it’s because the story takes place in the familiar yet peculiar setting of middle school, but these kids, some who would be considered "bad boys" in the light of day, were transfixed with the images on the screen. They laughed and talked appropriately, even clapping along with the crowd scenes in the movie.  In the safety of the dark theater, they were allowed to be themselves — just kids trying to navigate the humorous and tumultuous path of adolescence.

With Advent nearing, my thoughts turned to another young teenager — Mary. Scholars say she was probably fourteen years old when Gabriel announced that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Perhaps, kids those days were more mature than kids today, but, regardless, she was young…the age of my own daughter. Mary’s response to the big news undoes me, “…let it be with me just as you have said”, which translated means YES!

How often am I presented an opportunity by the Lord and shout “NO!” because I don’t understand what is being asked of me or I can’t see the end result or it hurts or it is just not what I want? What would happen if instead I say YES and embrace the mystery?

Like Mary, Auggie said YES. At first, his was reluctant acquiescence, but he left the safety of his homeschool environment to join other kids his age at a regular school. Despite the taunting and tears, he endured and, ultimately, thrived, hailed as the hero of the fifth grade for his character...his greatness.

“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength…He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts…” (Wonder, p. 304)

Not only does Auggie exhibit Courage, but his story has brought about a movement in the real world. #ChooseKind is trending on social media and in classrooms all over the United States.

Again, I think of Mary. Her YES ushered in a revolution that has continued for over two thousand years. Her son Jesus challenged the socio-economic, political, and religious beliefs of the day. He talked with women, hung out with sinners, and healed the lepers. He chose KIND.

Wonder is more than a story of a boy and his peers; it’s a story of a boy and his mom. In the final scene Auggie thanks his mom for sending him to middle school, and his mom thanks him for being him: “You really are a wonder, Auggie. You are a wonder” (p. 310).

As I read these words, I see Mary at the foot of the Cross, weeping for her boy and remembering the prophecy of Simeon at her son’s dedication, “so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too,” (Luke 2:35). Like Auggie’s mom, Mary stood in wonder of her son.

I, too, stand in awe of Jesus and every person whose YES brings the love of Christ to our big world. My response is a prayer echoing the words of Mary, “Be it done to me according to your Word.”

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