When I was sixteen, I had a pen pal named David who lived in Tokoroa, New Zealand. We started writing to each other because I had picked New Zealand as my pen pal’s homeland. When I read through the list of countries I could choose from, New Zealand had just sounded so very exotic and very far away. Actually, it turned out that New Zealand was on the opposite side of the Earth from Germany, where I lived!
David and I were writing to each other for about a year when we came up with the idea that I would visit him during my next summer school break so that I could practice my English for final exams. I was so excited at the idea! I was wowed! I had never been on a plane before! Heck, I had never even left Germany before! (I know these are a lot of exclamation marks, but I was just so excited!)
After the initial excitement, and after my mother talked on the phone with his parents, many How questions came up. How would I pay for this trip? My single, working mother most certainly did not have the money. I was fortunately able in the end to earn the money by working as a tutor after school.
How would I go about booking such a flight? As it turned, I had to go not only to a travel agency (this was before you could book flights yourself online), but actually one that specialized in trips to Australia and New Zealand. There were many other How questions that arose, but luckily we found solutions to all of them. And I eventually made the trip to New Zealand in June of 1988.
I realize now, had I focused straight away on the many Hows, instead of the initial WOW!, I think I would have never dared to embark on this adventure. It turned out to be life-changing, as I ended up living there for 13 years after finishing high school.
During this week’s message, lead pastor Ben Snyder talked about the importance of wonder in our lives. Wonder is the feeling of surprise caused by something unexpected. Wonder can also be the desire to be curious to know something. In one word, Wonder is WOW! Exactly what I felt as a teenager thinking about travelling to New Zealand.
Wonder can move us from what is or what was to what could be. If we are open to wonder, then we we are open to curiosity and experiencing the unexpected. Unfortunately, as adults, we often lose our sense of wonder as familiarity breeds contempt for what is new, or sometimes fear of the new breaks our curiosity down. So the bottom line for this week is: To make room for wonder, respond with WOW! before How.
WOW! and How, of course, go together. WOW! without How is, however, just daydreaming, and conversely How without WOW! will not take you anywhere new. The power of WOW! is that it focuses on the WHO before the WHAT without any need to agree with or reject the idea that is producing the wonder.
On the other hand, the challenge of the How is that the details can kill dreams. So we have to be careful which How we are using:
Critical How – focuses on imperfections (that is never going to work).
Cynical How – believes the worst at first (we are too old, this is too expensive, I do not see how we can overcome this).
Skeptical How – is not interested (I do not give a rip, how about …no, why do we not do this instead).
Shaming How – makes you feel terrible (you are not good enough, how did you think that that was a good idea).
Instead of these negatives types of How, we should be thinking about the Practical How, which allows us to move WOW! from idea to reality.
In the coming days, we will focus on two stories from Luke 1 to illustrate how different Hows can lead to different responses when experiencing a WOW! moment. In one story, we see an angel come to Zechariah telling him that he is going to have a son. In the other story, we see an angel come to Mary and tell her that she is going to have a child. They reacted very differently to their news because of their Hows….
When was the last time you experienced a WOW! moment? How did it make you feel and how did you respond? What kind of How do you use most often in response to a WOW!
Read the stories of Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1 and compare their responses to the blessed news of a child to be coming. Make notes of past times where you let the How kill the dream of a WOW! you or someone else in your life experienced. Think about ways you could have handled the situation differently.
Dear father in heaven, thank you for all the WOW! moments you have blessed me with in my life. They are all wonderful opportunities you have gifted me with! Thank you for giving me the wisdom and strength to not let the How kill the dream of the WOW! and instead embrace your gift of wonder and opportunity. Amen.
This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.
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