The weather on the evening of the recent Cedars Astronomy Night was unpleasant to say the least and, as darkness fell, I found myself reluctant to swap the warmth and cosiness of my living room for a night in the cold and blustery outdoors. But I had promised my seven year old niece Lily, that I would take her along and even though every bone in my body wanted to stay put I was not going to disappoint her. So bundled up in our winter jackets, scarves, beanies and gloves we braved the arctic winds together and headed down to the field to get up close and personal with the night sky.
The first thing that struck me was how dark it was. In order to get the best view from the high powered telescopes all the lights in the near vicinity had been extinguished and I found myself struggling to see anything more than a few feet in front of me. Clutching Lily’s hand tightly I noted how excited she was, skipping along in the dark beside me clearly having a great time, eyes skyward, looking through her toy binoculars. I however, was not skipping nor was I having a great time, as another gust of wind whipped straight through my many layers of clothing causing a spontaneous shiver. Lily didn’t seem to feel the cold and broke free from my hand when she spied a few friends from her class and they began an impromptu game of ‘chasings’.
Shortly after, the telescopes were ready for action. Once preliminary instructions were delivered, children and parents alike lined up behind the telescopes to take a look at the celestial bodies above. Lily and I waited just a few minutes before it was our turn. I had to admit I was mildly impressed by the sight of Jupiter up so close, but my reaction was well and truly surpassed by that of my niece. “Oh wow – look at that, it’s soooo amazing!” was her response. “Mmmm, I agreed. How about we line up behind this next one and see if we can look at the moon.” To be honest I was still cold and quietly hoping that the faster we got through this the sooner we could go home and get warm.
The line behind this next telescope was a little longer and while we waited I chatted casually to one of the other parents in the line. Like Lily, his son had been eagerly anticipating the Cedars Astronomy Night and he too had brought along his own toy binoculars. As the two children lifted their toy binoculars toward the sky they both giggled happily as they called out the things they could supposedly “see” in the dark, with their plastic binoculars. I was impressed with their ability to turn what I considered unfavourable circumstances into a fun game.
Just before it was our turn to look through the telescope, the owner of said telescope decided that it would be better if he adjusted the position so we could get a better view. Instead of manually moving this piece of equipment he picked up a remote control and at the flick of a switch the telescope began to rotate around the tripod to its new position. What seemed like a fairly routine action to me, was met with two open mouthed gasps from the children beside me. “Oh wow! Did you see that! Look how it moved by itself!” cried one. “Yes, it’s so cool!” replied the other. All this and we were yet to even look through the telescope!
It was then that it hit me – I had lost my sense of awe and wonder. Was it possible that I had become so detached in my advancing age that I had lost the ability to see and really experience life, and live each moment in its fullness? I felt immediately challenged by the child-like wonder happening all around me and made a mental commitment to renew my own sense of curiosity and fascination with creation even when it seems inconvenient.
The truth is, the remarkable is all around us. Yet too often, in our busyness we can walk straight by something that is potentially awe-inspiring. When we respond to something with wonderment and awe, it is because we recognise the things that make it special. It causes us to inquire or ask questions, both of which are precursors to learning new things. As Christians God calls us to stop, reflect and meditate on the wonder of His creation. Actively seeking opportunities to do just that will help to ensure that we never lose our sense of awe and wonder.
“Take a look at God’s wonders, they will take your breath away.”