Monday, December 14, 2015

Seven Relational Wonders

These wonders are not distant and rare, but near and necessary for life transformation

I’ve seen a few of the natural and human-made wonders of the world—and long to see more. I’ve witnessed the magnificence of the Taj Mahal. But I have yet to gaze up upon the sky-filling wonder of Aurora Borealis.

Seeing the Seven Wonders of the World requires costly travel, putting many of them out of reach for most of us. To see the Northern Lights, I will plan to travel far north. Even then, it will be a momentary experience that may soon fade from the realm of wonder to the list of “been there, done that.”

What about wonders that are much nearer and accessible to more of us? What about wonders that are not in the natural order or of human ingenuity? I offer seven relational wonders of the world—wonders which amaze and continue to shape us on a daily basis. Before these, I feel reverence and mystery.

1. Children and parents. Privileged to witness the birth of each of our four children and participate equally in rearing them into young adulthood, they are, to me, a wonder. Their uniqueness, innocence, zest for exploring, and gradual maturing amazes me. Likewise, who is ever adequate to the vocation of parenting? My profession in life pales in comparison to the challenge of parenting.

2. Love and marriage. Do we choose love or does love choose us? We choose life partners and these relationships impact the dailyness and trajectory of our lives. We may yield to love, fully confident that we can manage and max its apparently predictable paces, only to find that love turns us inside out and upside down and, somehow, for better or worse, makes us more fully alive.

3. Grace and forgiveness. Anyone who loves and joins with a companion will, sooner than later, discover the value of grace and forgiveness. Separately and together, both in offering and receiving, they are oil that salve and heal individuals and relationships. Grace is revealed as timely empathy, understanding, and forbearance. Profoundest of wonders, forgiveness births hope for a changed and better future.

4. Reverse mission. Named so by Henri Nouwen, reverse mission is the discovery that those to whom we feel called in mission in the end contribute more to our lives than we ever can give. Those we seek in compassion to change, change us.

5. Border crossing and bridge building. Who knows what compels and propels some people beyond their own kin and kind to cross guarded cultural borders, dwell in notorious DMZs, and build bridges between here and there, inviting all to new common ground?

6. Connectedness of all things. Discovering that all people, animals, lands, and systems are inextricably connected undermines ideologies, humanizes “devils,” extends kinship, cultivates value, changes habits, and creates stewardship.

7. The power of one small light. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overwhelm it.” If one has seen but a single person so shine, one forever salutes this wonder. Moving our light closer to another’s, we become part of the wonder that dispels darkness.

May we open our hearts and eyes anew to the possibility of wonder. May some wonder disrupt our dis-ease, interrupt our foregone conclusions, rattle our settled presumptions, and challenge our criticisms. Perhaps some small relational wonder will begin in and through us a movement that changes the outcome of the future.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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