See. Do. Be. Free.
An Open Letter to the Community around this year's theme.
Issue 022: Wholeheartedness – “The Awe and Wonder of Wholehearted Living” by Christine Sine
As Street Psalms enters its 25th year of forming grassroots leaders in vulnerable communities, we are inviting friends of our work to reflect with us on their own sense of vocation and call. This month Christine Sine reflects on our guiding question:
When did your sense of vocation become real to you and what does it mean for you to show up wholeheartedly in your call when confronted with disappointment, failure, despair, and your own half-heartedness?
Can you imagine a God who dances with shouts of joy, laughs when you laugh, loves to play, enjoys life, and invites us to enjoy life together?
It took me many years to discover this kind of God. Like many of us, I grew up with a serious, workaholic God who chastised me for not working frantically twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Even when I realized this was not who God was, change came slowly. I felt guilty when I slowed down or just went out and had fun. Following Jesus is serious business after all. Like the disciples who tried to chase away the children that came to Jesus, I couldn’t be bothered with frivolity. As a network that has spent the past 25 years seeking to love its urban communities and the most vulnerable within them, I’m guessing you can relate to this tendency. After all, what could be more important bringing peace and shalom wholeness to communities wracked by violence and mindsets of scarcity?
For me, part of the journey to wholeheartedness began as I meditated on Matthew 18:3 for Lent one year. I was riveted by The Passion Translation: “Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.” I asked myself, what if living wholeheartedly into the ways of God doesn’t mean absorbing more theology or attending church more, but rather becoming more childlike?
In preparation for writing my book The Gift of Wonder, I asked my Facebook friends “What are the childlike characteristics that make us fit for the kingdom of God? I was amazed at the enthusiastic response. Playfulness; awe and wonder; imagination; curiosity; love of nature; compassion; unconditional trust all emerged. However, I also found that most of us suffer from play deprivation, nature deficit disorder, awe depletion, compassion fatigue, and imagination suppression. I think we suffer from God deprivation too.
I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering child-like wonder, the joy of play, and the delight of interacting with nature, are essential for our spiritual health and make it possible to live wholeheartedly every day. Awe and wonder, imagination, and curiosity connect us to God in a way that nothing else can. It seems counter-intuitive, but I think this only gets more important the harder the work gets. It is precisely when it feels like our ministry is crucial that spending time in wonder and awe can remind us that we are witnesses to the new life the Spirit is calling forth – not creating it ourselves. These qualities enrich our contemplative core and expand our horizons to explore new aspects of our world and of our God.
Children instinctively experience awe a hundred times a day, but we adults rarely do. It takes intentionality to add a “daily dose of awe” to our spiritual disciplines. My husband and I rechristened our daily walks “awe and wonder walks”. We point out to each other the blossom-laden trees and brilliant smiling daffodils and tulips that take our breath away. This was particularly important during the COVID shutdown season. Our daily awe and wonder walks kept us alive and vital at a time when many were sinking into depression. They helped us to see beyond the fears and anxieties to a God who loves life, not death.
Learning to lean into awe and wonder is a process – a practice cultivated over time. Several years ago, I consulted a life coach who really helped me see joy and awe and wonder as part of my life vocation and what I have to offer to the world. “What does the world need from you?” she asked me. At the heart of my calling is the desire to enable others to become the people that God intends them to be. What I give to the world we decided, is a pathway through which to enjoy God and enter into the richness of wholeheartedly living by discovering joy and awe and wonder.
Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe-inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go and in the process, we are enabled to embrace wholehearted living in the way God intends us to. In fact, it reminds me of Street Psalms’ charism of “seeing and celebrating good news in hard places.”
Believing in a God who loves to get dirty hands planting gardens, makes mud pies to put on the eyes of the blind, and does happy dances and sings with joy over all of humanity and in fact all of creation has revolutionized my faith, but stepping out on this path was not easy. It has taken courage, the kind of everyday courage that Brené Brown speaks about in her important book The Gifts of Imperfection. Courage is one of the most important qualities that wholehearted people have in common says Brené Brown. She is not talking about the courage to do extraordinary acts of heroism here. She is talking about the ordinary acts of courage that make up our daily life. The kind of courage that says “I need more joy in my life” or “I need to go out and play rather than going to another meeting” or “I need to stir my imagination and curiosity today.”
What I like about Brené Brown’s approach to wholeheartedness is the way she identifies things we need to give up as well as things we need to embrace. There is no place for perfectionism, powerlessness, self-doubt, the need to be in control, or exhaustion as a status symbol. Concerns about scarcity, and anxiety as a way of life all need to be discarded if we want to live wholeheartedly. In their place those kinds of things that I identify in The Gift of Wonder: resilience, compassion for ourselves and others, gratitude and joy, rest and play, love of nature, laughter, dancing and song.
Wholeheartedness, awe, wonder, and play are all closely connected. I want to continue noticing the wonder of the changing seasons and immerse myself in their beauty. I want to increasingly be drawn into the presence of our fun-loving, joy-filled God. My prayer is that Street Psalms would continue to embrace its charism of “seeing and celebrating good news in hard places” in the next 25 years in its own pursuit of wholeheartedness. May we all take time to enjoy the beauty and wonder of God and celebrate the ways the light is breaking through in even the darkest spaces.
Christine Sine is the founder and facilitator for Godspace, which grew out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening and sustainability. Together with her husband, Tom, she is also co-Founder of Mustard Seed Associates but recently retired to make time available for writing and speaking. Learn more at www.GodSpaceLight.com.