Ruminations: Wonder

Our theme for December is Wonder. We’ll begin this Sunday with a spiritual grounding that is central to our faith tradition: surrendering to mystery.

Next Sunday, we have another opportunity to share a wonderful meal together after the service. We’ll take some time, in worship and in conversation afterward, to wonder about Article II of our Unitarian Universalist Association’s bylaws. This is the section where our principles and sources currently live.

On December 18, we’ll experience wonder through music with a special worship experience led by Mike Carney. And on Christmas Eve, our congregation will gather together for one service at 6:00PM featuring a Christmas Tableau, plenty of holiday music, and a special time afterward to share in some food and fellowship.

Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, and we’ll take time with whoever chooses to be present on December 25 to be curious about the gifts each of us brings to community. I’m personally approaching this holiday service with curiosity and wonder, because I have no idea how many people will participate, or how many will want to join us online that morning!

Embracing that there are question marks around so many things is perfect for a month of wonder, though. We often pretend that we know things that we cannot possibly know. Like how many people will respond to an invitation. Or what another person is thinking. Or how a family member will react when we’re vulnerable with them about something challenging in our lives.

Being honest about not knowing things is part of Unitarian Universalist theology. Curiosity—embracing that there is mystery to our existence—is vital to encouraging spiritual growth. The capacity for wonder is an essential ingredient to a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I can’t fathom an interdependent web of all existence without feeling a sense of awe and wonder.

A lot of people feel uncomfortable with uncertainty. If we can pretend to be certain about what someone will do or say, we might feel more confident in our own behavior. Maybe we get some reassurance from convincing ourselves that we know things that we can’t possibly know.

Admitting that there is mystery and embracing a sense of curiosity doesn’t leave us drifting untethered in the universe, though. We can remain grounded and centered in our own life-affirming values and recognize the vast number of things we don’t know or understand.

If we claim a value of honesty, for instance, we might choose to speak truth to someone, even though we can’t know how that person will respond. We might also claim a value of compassion, which could inform how we communicate truth. The other person’s response is still a mystery to us until it happens, but we can speak in a way that embodies all of the life-affirming values that matter to us.

So what inspires you to a sense of wonder? How could a willingness to be more curious lead you toward deeper connection with yourself, other people, and the world we all share? And what are the life-affirming values that ground you in the midst of uncertainty and mystery?