by Margaret Feinberg
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 goodbye 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 a long frigid swim, miles multiply in people’s hearts.
Rumors circulated of the inefficiency and unreliability of the ferry system connecting the regional ports, but remained the only practical option for the move. Pulling our overloaded vehicles into the belly of the ship, we exhaled a sigh of relief, and then we scrambled to the observatory deck to secure a window seat where we could watch the last of the brief day’s blissful sun melt into the horizon. Fatigue drained the remaining amps of my energy reserves. I took one last glance at Leif and mustered a slanted smile before nodding off to sleep.
Hunger soon woke me. 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.
Aware of the privilege of watching God’s creation unfold its glorious mysteries, I didn’t want to miss a millisecond of the aurora borealis, the northern lights. Wonderstruck by my Creator, this moment of spiritual awakening stirred in me a longing to experience more of God. If these lights were so beautiful, how much more stunning must their Maker be? What kind of God paints the sky in such effulgent hues? For some, the northern lights are a tourist attraction, but for me, they are a portal to the very heart of God. My lips remained motionless, but my soul sang as I witnessed this revival in the night sky.
The hours passed. I offered up a silent prayer to lay hold of the wonder of God, to find myself once again awed by another facet of His nature, another glimpse of His presence in our world.
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.
God extends endless invitations to encounter Him, yet too often we sleep straight through. Unconscious of the life God wants for us, we slumber in the presence of the sacred and snore in the company of the divine. We remain asleep while God roosts in our midst. Inactive and inert, we become spiritual sleepyheads who clamor for the snooze button rather than climb out of bed. In our dormant states, we miss the opportunities to experience His many gifts and to know the Giver more fully.
What are the wonders of God in your own life that you fail to marvel at or even sleep straight through? How often do you pass by God’s presence and handiwork unaware?
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.
A Prayer for Wonder
God’s infinite nature knows neither beginning nor end; our Creator is like a vast ocean, fathomless and without bounds, an ever-rising tide without abatement, yet in my spiritual journey in the months after our move, I stood ankle deep, baptized only in the shallows of His presence. Yet I sensed the Spirit beckoning me to plunge into the cool, shadowy depths marked by indescribable beauty, those unforgettable moments of life that draw us closer to God. Allured by the Spirit, I lunged forward.
Palms extended, wide-eyed with expectation, I waited for an answer. And God did not disappoint. For me, a prayer for wonder asks the Lord to expand my capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around. Through the months and years that followed, Bible passages that had become stale and flat came alive much like a pop-up book revealing hidden beauty and unexpected surprises.
Often when God answers a prayer for wonder, the tone and tenacity with which we live our lives changes. Holiness beckons. Divine expectation flourishes. Hope returns. Love abounds. In response, we awaken, toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life God intended for us. We live alert to the wonders all around us and within us that expand our desire to know God more.
Will you pray for wonder? Right now, ask God to awaken your ability to see and savor His sweet presence and recognize His divine handiwork.
And as you pray, may you be wonderstruck. With each passing day, may you discover another facet of God’s character, feel the soft pinch of His presence, and step back in astonishment of the One who holds everything together. Along the way, I trust you’ll experience God.
When you lay hold of Him, may you never let go.
This is an excerpt from Wonderstruck: Awaken To the Nearness of God, a book from our friend Margaret Feinberg. This year at Catalyst Atlanta, Margaret will be joining us to break down what it looks like for a leader to Awaken the Wonder in themselves, and others. We’d love for you to be there with us, so head to CatalystConference.com where you can see our complete speaker lineup including Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, Dr. Brené Brown, and others. Use the promo code: ORANGE.