It must have been the dozenth time Matthias circled that maple tree. With each lap, he stared at its trunk with the sort of awestruck wonder that is typical of toddlers. Finally, he stopped, looked up into the massive snow-covered branches, and let out a huge belly laugh. What an astonishing sight it was! At least to him.
I, on the other hand, had far more important thoughts racing through my mind. The snippet of code I had been trying to run earlier that day was still throwing error messages. I had a very important Zoom meeting tomorrow. My smartphone buzzed, beckoning me to check the latest email notification. Speaking of phones, did I remember to pay the Koodo bill?
Matthias continued to stare at the tree and giggle. What could he possibly find so interesting about that tree? It was such a simple thing, really. It hardly seemed worth the attention he was giving it. But then it hit me. It wasn’t a “simple thing” at all. That tree was a majestic testament to the power, wisdom, and goodness of God.
And here was the irony: I had far more reason to be amazed by that tree than my son did. He did not know that this tree, dormant as it looked in the dead of winter, was still very much alive. He did not know about its complex system of subterranean roots that rivaled the size and magnitude of its visible branches. He did not know about the sweet sap flowing through its trunk which could be tapped, boiled down, bottled, and poured over hot pancakes. He did not know that the chairs his parents sat at every meal were carved out of a tree not too different from the one which was now standing in his gaze. Why, then, was I the bored one?
There was a time when I, too, would have stopped for a moment and thought about God’s amazing handiwork in the tree. But now I thought I had explanations for it all. When I was a little kid, I wondered how the tree’s water made its way from the roots all the way up to its highest branches, five or six stories in the air. But then I studied and learned about capillary action and the whole question was demystified. The case was closed, and with it, my sense of wonder.
But here’s where I got it all wrong: understanding the mechanism of how something works doesn’t make it any less spectacular! The fact is, we do not live in a boring world. We are just a people too easily bored. We use fancy terms like “capillary action” as if that somehow means we ought to take the tree’s system for delivering water and nutrients for granted. We hide behind laws like “gravity” to obscure the marvelous fact that we live on a blue planet circling a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea.
Now don’t get me wrong. Studying the world God made is good and necessary. But how we study is a matter of great importance. When we learn the sciences, we ought to do so with an eye for awakening wonder, rather than suppressing it. We ought to be growing in greater praise and thanksgiving to our Creator, not dulling our senses through the use of surface-level, reductionistic cliches.
And while we must ever guard against the temptation to be satisfied with a perfunctory understanding of God’s world, this attitude becomes far more dangerous when we carry it with us in our approach to God’s Word.
B.B. Warfield, in his earnest address, “The Religious Life of Theological Students”, carefully warned against this very danger. His words are as relevant today as when they were first spoken over a century ago:
“The great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him because they are customary… The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, inflections and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness. God’s stately steppings in his redemptive processes may become to you a mere series of facts of history, curiously interplaying to the production of social and religious conditions and pointing mayhap to an issue which we may shrewdly conjecture: but much like other facts occurring in time and space which may come to your notice. It is your great danger… The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore: they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!”
We know we are becoming numb to eternal realities when the very word of God sits unread on our shelf while we scroll the latest vaporous updates on social media. Or we sit under the preaching of God’s truth on the Lord’s Day, but repeatedly glance at our watches. May it never be!
How then can we resist this danger? Not by staying ignorant. The prescription here is not to remain spiritual infants. God calls His people to grow in our understanding and maturity, to be skillful in our use of His word (1 Cor. 14:20; Heb. 5:11-14).
For example, we ought to know the biblical meanings of words like foreknowledge, election, propitiation, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. But we must never lose sight of the fact that these things are not merely theoretical ideas – they are realities. Believer, your God has chosen you, Christ has borne the punishment of your sin, the Holy Spirit has made you alive. You have been justified, you are being sanctified, and you will be glorified!
If we find ourselves dull to the truths of God’s word, we ought to pray with the Psalmist:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
We must also take the time to truly meditate on God’s word if we wish to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is no accident that the man who finds God’s law a delight is the one who daily meditates upon that word (Psalm 1:2).
The puritan Thomas Watson once aptly wrote,
"The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”
This requires times of undivided attention to the truths of God’s word. For many of us, the smartphone is our chief source of distraction. Turn it off, or put it in another room if you must. But do not be content with growing dull. Do not be satisfied with half-hearted, lifeless study. Do not let yourself become bored of God!
Believer, you are loved by a wondrous God who has saved you with a wondrous salvation and has given you a wondrous inheritance. Don’t lose your sense of wonder.