Wonder and Surprise

Long ago, I spent a week at Camp Hudgens, a boy’s camp in southeast Oklahoma. Actually, it was an Oklahoma Baptist camp for Royal Ambassadors. Think Christianized Boy Scouts. 

As a Royal Ambassador, I will do my best to become an informed, responsible follower of Christ

the pledge began.

I don’t know if it was by intention, but our bus passed Big Mac, the State’s maximum security prison that opened in 1908. Tall fences and razor wire. Signs that read, “Don’t pick up hitchhikers. They may be escaped prisoners,” warned passersby. If you had thoughts of misbehavin’, that would prompt you to think again. 

One of the first tasks at camp was the swim test. I had been swimming for quite some time. Summers would find us often at Will Rogers Park’s swimming pool. But this was a new pool and a new setting. The short story is I failed the test. What that meant was that my water activities were restricted. I could canoe for my water sport.

My experience canoeing at Camp Hudgens prepared me for my first trips floating the Illinois River. We often went so late in the summer that we would end up carrying, what I have recently learned is akin to portaging, over sandbars. Over time, and due to a lack of canoeing experience by those floating the river, most companies now provide 6-8 inflatable rafts to float the river in. 

It has been at least twenty years since I paddled a canoe. I am hoping it is like riding a bike. The memories came to mind in anticipation of an upcoming canoeing trip. 

During the evenings, we will chat over an open fire. We will share conversations over at least two books. One of the suggested readings is Hartmut Rosa’s The Uncontrollability of the World. Our guide has quite a sense of humor. All but two of us have never taken this excursion. It will surely leave us feeling out of control.

What the outdoor experience in an unfamiliar place will mean is that we will be subject to wonder and surprise. Reading Rosa, a sociologist, left me thinking of my first trip to the Colorado Mountains. To say I was overwhelmed by the visual effects during the drive would be an understatement. Oklahomans may pride themselves on living in a State with every topographical feature, but Mount Scott does not compare to Pool Table, much less the 14ers we drive by on our trips to the Southern Slope. 

Our church is located on what is considered the highest point in Grady County, but it is nowhere near the near 8400+ feet at Wagon Wheel Gap. We have large elm trees, but nothing compares to the tall pines, cottonwoods, and aspens. I have fly fished the Lower Mountain Fork River, but it is nothing like getting in the Rio Grande.

We will not make a trip to Colorado this year. But the mountains are always calling.

Wonder and Surprise.

Rosa makes the case that human attempts to control the world result in the loss of wonder and surprise. It led to this tweet after reading the bit in the photo above.

The difference between learning in wonder and surprise [is} that [it} makes a subject resonate with the learner{.} {A}nd a system intent to control outcomes and diminish wonder as performative measurements rob the learner of [both} wonder and surprise.

I could not help but carry over some of Rosa’s theses and ideas and think about our processes of Christian Education, discipleship. How often have we robbed young people of wonder and surprise by demanding particular performative outcomes and pathways that stunted or aborted the transformation that comes with the wonder and surprise of the Gospel? What if our personal fears of losing control have led us to diminish their imaginations and their wrestling with the great themes of God’s self-giving, other-directed love? 

Maybe I will have more once I finish the book.

For now, I remain confident that we cannot control the Spirit. There is still hope.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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