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Women of the Advent | August 9, 2023

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Psalm 102:25-27)

This is the first summer in the history of ever that our family has not spent together. Historically we’ve either taken two week-long trips — one around Memorial Day and the other closer to the start of school — or we’ve spent two weeks back-to-back somewhere. In the past several years, these trips became even more fun because rather than relying on my husband and me to plan them, subjecting ourselves to many groans and complaints from our boys, we handed the trip planning over to them. As a result, we’ve been places, seen things, and eaten foods we probably never would have without their influence.

But this year, we learned fairly late in the game that between graduations and internships and cross-country employment we would not be able to all be together this summer.

We didn’t see that one coming. Not yet. I mean, we know with our boys growing up this is what happens. But not yet.

In order to deal with this sudden, new, and strange experience of “not together-ness,” I asked our boys to send photos regularly on our family chat so we could see what they were seeing even if we couldn’t be there with them.

Their photos have been great: Henry on Glacier Point in Yosemite, Davis kayaking in the shadow of the skyline of downtown Chicago, and Sam rafting in Denali National Park. It’s just amazing to think of all they’ve seen this summer.

Recently I’ve thought about wonder a lot. Here’s a dictionary definition: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. And here are a few synonyms: awe, fascination, astonishment.

Our boys’ summer scenery has certainly given them many opportunities for wonder. But I hope their wonder doesn’t end at the view from the mountain, or the magnificence of the river, or the beauty of the forest. Not to be the killjoy of social media vacation posts, but if their wonder ends there, they will have missed what is truly wonderful.

There is so much in creation that inspires wonder. Yet, increasingly it seems we’ve lost our sense of wonder. The thing that might have inspired wonder yesterday is only as awe-inspiring as today’s AI iteration of it. Our sense of wonder is limited if it’s focused too much on the thing itself. Creation is full of wonder because God is wonderful. 

When we value creation over Creator, we’re valuing what is merely a good image of what we really desire — what really deserves our wonder. Creation is a fleeting image of our eternal desire.

Creation is dying. Bears eat people, forests are burning, rivers are polluted. All of creation is under the curse of the Fall and is in a constant state of decay. The grass withers, the flower fades…

What happened in the Garden was the Fall of man, but more importantly, it was the rise of the gospel. Even fallen creation bears witness to the majesty and glory of its Creator. 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

The wonder of creation is its redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)

The outcome of birth pains is the hope of new life. In the meantime, all of creation is groaning, and waiting, just like us until, “Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having been broken and lost” (Keller paraphrasing Tolkien). 

In the meantime, we should certainly enjoy the beauty of God’s creation — he made it for us! But our wonder and our worship does not belong to it. Our wonder and our worship belong to him who holds its pillars firm and by whose stripes it, and we, are healed. 

From “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Were the whole realm of nature mine

That were a tribute far too small

Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul my life my all. 

—Leslie Housman

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