On Whale Sharks and Wonder

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.
– GK Chesterton

Wooow, my boy says to himself. Standing in front of the wall of glass, he’s a bit scared the fish are so close. Still, wooow, he repeats and our hearts expand— mine with joy, his with wonder.

Did you know there are fish that can look up through their own transparent skulls? Or that after decades of research and trackers and cameras on female whale sharks, we still don’t know where they give birth? They go into the deeps and scientists’ screens go black.

At the aquarium, I think of whale sharks and nature documentaries our family loves. I think in wonder of all of creation exclaiming his praise.

I need more wonder most days. And my guess is, I’m not the only one.

We need wonder when our lives feel too small.

One side-effect of living in a world saturated by social media is an increasing discontentment with our locality. The majority of us live outside of the public eye, yet as we spend our attention on what is publicized, the temptation is to equate popularity with worth, and obscurity with insignificance. In every sphere of life– home, work, and church– Instagram offers a window to the rest of the world, and in its glowing light our lives can begin to feel lackluster.

Even those who are faithfully seeking to glorify God where he has placed them can begin to be plagued by self-doubt and insecurity when surrounded by Christian celebrity culture. Does what I do really matter if it’s not worth public attention and acknowledged by the masses? Does this mean I should be be accomplishing more for the kingdom of God?

I’m a stay-at-home mom serving in a small local church and while I know the work God has called me to is good, it doesn’t always (or often) feel glorious. When my life begins to feel too small, I’ve found that taking time to wonder at God’s creation can help. I need the reminder that God’s infinite creativity reaches the depths, that there are amazing creatures whose existence are hidden from human eyes. They have proclaimed his glory for thousands of years and continue to do so even now.

Years ago when the first BBC Planet Earth came out I watched in disbelief at colorful birds of paradise, looking like Dr. Seuss creations as they hopped and flapped to wild dances. I marveled at the fact that these birds have done their thing, looking as fabulously over-the-top as they have, for thousands of years outside the public eye. God sees it fit to clothe these birds radiantly just as he rules over the hidden births of whale sharks. The existence of both testify that all things were created to display the glory of God, regardless of whether or not human eyes ever capture it on film.

We are not the only ones who have felt our smallness. David wonders in Psalm 8,

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

David is wondering both at the vastness of the heavens and the unexpectedness of God’s loving attention for people. The world shown to us via social media is but a small sliver of God’s world. We are even smaller than our social media accounts would cause us to feel. Yet we are seen and loved by a God who cares.

In our homes as we care for our children, in our churches as we serve the least of these, in our offices as we do faithful work, we are seen by a God who is mindful of us. What happens before God alone can still be glorious. What happens in the secret places is significant to him. The creatures scientist have yet to discover and the unseen reaches of the universe bear witness that God’s glory is uncontainable. They also teach us that just because our lives aren’t praised by men doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile and beautiful.

We need wonder when our lives feel too big.

As often as our lives can feel too small, they sometimes can also feel too big. There are times when the here and now consumes us. It might be a crises of health, family conflict, or loss. Or it could be just the drumming of daily responsibilities crescendoing to deafening volumes. In these moments, it can feel as if all we see is all there is and God’s arm is too short to reach us.

It is one thing to verbally acknowledge God’s power and his care in the midst of trials. But it is another thing to feel it in our bones. Take Job, the righteous man plagued with terrible suffering, and what’s worse seemingly unjustly and with no answer from God, was only brought to a place of comfort and peace when God spoke to him. Yet when God spoke, he did not give him the kinds of theological answers for suffering we might expect.

Through repeated questioning, God brought Job to a place where he felt his creaturely limits and surrendered to the wisdom of God. The way God did this was asking him questions about his creation, starting his interrogation with the famous lead-in, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” In this way, God sometimes uses the grandeur and majesty of his creation to speak to our cores out of the whirlwind, until we say with Job, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:4).

Creation testifies to the power and divinity of God without words and teaches us viscerally, through our senses, that our God is not too small for us. Rather, he is in control, he is powerful, and he is wiser than we are. Wonder moves our hearts and emotions in response to power and wisdom beyond our comprehension.

When your world feels too big and forces outside of your control loom large, you can with the Psalmist think of the works of the Lord.

“For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O LORD, are on high forever” (Ps. 92:1-8).

As we consider creation with an eye to the Creator, we see that all that vexes us now is temporary and that God on high forever is not powerless in our circumstances.

Would you wonder today?

How much there is still undiscovered on our own planet, created for his pleasure alone, giving glory to him in the depths, heights, and beyond! The Creator’s hands have wrought wonders beyond comprehension, “and these are but the outer fringe of his works” (Job 26:14)! Not only so, but he bends his power toward those who belong to him and call on him in their need. He is more than sufficient for your world. And since he upholds each atom in the universe by the word of his power, every aspect of your life is loaded with holy purpose and significance (Heb. 1:3).

Does your life feels too big or too small for God? Might I commend to you wonder? Consider the heavens, the moon and the stars as you walk inside from your car tonight (Ps. 8:3). Look up from your phone and to the skies. Listen as they pour forth speech and attest to his glory (Ps. 19:1). Go to the aquarium or turn on a nature documentary. Think of the birds of the air— powerful birds of prey, neighborhood sparrows, and brilliant birds of paradise— all cared for by his powerful, sovereign hand (Matt. 6:26-34). Look at the tiny fingers of your precious little one and wonder at his amazing wisdom in forming her in the womb (Ps. 139). All you see is but the outer fringes of your Creator’s work.

Wonder might expand your heart to give you the perspective you need. May you wooow today to his glory and for your good.

Faith Chang

Faith and her husband Jeff live with their 4 little people in Staten Island, NY and serve in Grace Christian Church. She has a Certificate of Christian Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary and is passionate about orthodoxy for the sake of life before God and worship unto him. When given alone time, she reads, writes, and declutters.

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