Ravi Zacharias has been described by Chuck Colson as "the great apologist of our time." He has defended the faith in settings including Harvard, Princeton, and Cambridge. He's written best-selling books including Jesus Among Other Gods, Sense and Sensuality: Jesus Talks to Oscar Wilde on the Pursuit of Pleasure, Cries of the Heart, The Broken Promise: A Tale of Guilt and Grace, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha, Can Man Live Without God?, and Is Your Church Ready?: Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life and hosts a radio show, Let My People Think. His newest book is entitled Recapture the Wonder, published by Integrity.
When you start talking about the definition of wonder, you say it's important for us to understand what it isn't, and then to try to get a handle on what it is. How do you define wonder?
This is probably the most difficult aspect, so I put it in one paragraph. Here's what I wrote:
Wonder is that possession of the mind that enchants the emotions while never surrendering reason. It is a grasp on reality that does not need constant high points in order to be maintained, nor is it made vulnerable by the low points of life's struggle. It sees in the ordinary the extraordinary, and finds in the extraordinary the re-affirmations for what it already knows. Wonder blasts the soul, that is the spiritual and the skeleton, the body, the material. Wonder interprets life through the eyes of eternity while enjoying the moment, but never lets the moment's revision exhaust the eternal. Wonder makes life's enchantment real and knows when and where enchantment must lie. Wonder knows how to read the shadows because it knows the nature of light. Wonder knows that while you cannot look at the light, you cannot look at anything else without it. It is not exhausted by childhood, but finds its key there. It is a journey like a walk through the woods over the usual obstacles and around the common distractions while the voice of direction leads saying this is the way, walk ye in it.
And I think the best way that I summarize it in my own mind is to say that it is the balancing of enchantment with reality, without violating either.
It's interesting that you make reference to childhood. In the preface to that chapter you say, "The tragedy with growing up is not that we lose childishness in its simplicity, but that we lose childlikeness in its sublimity." Why is it that we associate wonder with childhood?
For two reasons, I think. The first one is we've experienced it and we can remember it. When I was speaking in Pennsylvania, I saw a young woman walking into church, holding a little girl's hand. That child was skipping and hopping and giggling and chuckling, and everybody was noticing it. There was not a single person who didn't smile and realize how wonderful it was to see a little one so enthralled just walking into church. Everything is new. Whether it's the teaspoon of an ice cream in the mouth, or whether it's a toy you're playing with, or whether it's a friend, or whether it's a beautiful boat ride, there's a newness to life. That novelty thrills the young heart. For the want of a better word, the software is pristine, and we're putting it with new wonderful pieces of information.
You have this phrase in this chapter, "The game is played not to protect the rules, rather the rules are made to protect the game." How is it that rules become part of a discussion of wonder?
When I first wanted to play tennis, I had no idea of the measurements of the court of what were; the boundaries for singles or doubles. I labored long and hard only to find myself completely exhausted in trying to play the game because of all the wrong sets of rules we had invented in playing it. Once we knew what the right rules were, tennis became an exhilarating game. The rules and the laws are there to protect the game and life, not the other way around.
You say that one of the reasons we have lost wonder is that we are on passionate pursuits but misdirected searches. One of them is in the tragic sense of wonder in the area of human sexuality.
You grow up, you feel the passions, you feel the energy of the body longing for sudden excitement, and so on. And what happens is you get various options coming your way, because the sensation is so powerful we often lose our sensibility in it. It takes more and more and more to bring the same degree of satisfaction. Those who have lived heathenistically are the ones who come away the most empty of all.
When I wrote the book on Oscar Wilde, Sense and Sensuality: Jesus Talks to Oscar Wilde on the Pursuit of Pleasure, I remember going to Paris and visiting the haunts that he had inhabited. Here was a man who was the hedonist of his time, was brilliant in describing pleasure, and yet in his 40s was dying in that little room and asking for a priest to come. We learn the hard way that as impulsive as sensuality is, if it is not harnessed by the rules for which our sense-drive was given, you only plunder the thing. You first lose the thrill, and then you lose the very sensation in the process.
We experience God's love when we come to understand that we are forgiven and that the price has been paid.
A friend of mine told me once how he was a very successful man but went bankrupt. And when he faced that bankruptcy he was not able to pay any of his mechanics or builders. This was one of my dearest friends who actually helped me co-fund the ministry.
While he was staring at this huge seven-figure debt and he was declaring bankruptcy, another friend of his, for whom he built years before, phoned him and just said, "I hear you're in trouble. I'm going to send you a check, blank, you fill it out, pay yours bills with it and, David, pay it back for me. Whatever you need, take now, return it whenever you can."
My friend said to me, "I cannot tell you the feeling of despondency that changed, and hopelessness that changed, into the wonderful gift of pulling you out of there." Now, the marvelous thing is when God gives us that forgiveness, we don't pay back the way he's paid it for us.
Oscar Wilde once said, "We don't appreciate sunsets because we don't have to pay for them." Chesterton responded, "Wilde was wrong. You can pay for sunsets by not living like he did."
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Recapture the Wonder is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.
More information is available on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries web site.
Recent Dick Staub Interviews include:
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Francis Bok Is Proof that Slavery Still Exists | After spending 10 years in slavery, the young Sudanese man is telling his story to the world. (Oct. 28, 2003)
Philip Yancey, the Rumor-Monger | The author's latest is written not for Christians, but for those on the "borderlands of belief" (Sept. 30, 2003)
Ken Gire's Lord of the Dance | Patch Adams and T. S. Eliot teach us to twirl with Jesus, says the author (Sept. 23, 2003)
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