“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982
It is Monday and I am still sleeping as I write this blog on my morning commute. The weekend was rich with worship and this wisdom from Annie Dillard frames it in right perspective.
Because worship is not safe.
As we sat on the fire escape for a Saturday picnic of mostly locally scrounged grub, it felt like the right amount of whimsy – like the best way we could have appreciated the beautiful colors and the conversation.
But that fire escape plan had materialized only minutes before, on the bike ride back to the apartment after hanging out in our neighborhood for the morning. It was something we stepped inside on a whim and then wondered if it might have been prepared for us.
I’m still thinking about how differently a child responds to surprise. When there is a firework or a hot air balloon or an ice cream truck, children get big eyes- they get wonder-filled and adventure-ready. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t plan A or that it might be impossible.
They are always expecting the next adventure because it doesn’t matter whether or not they have shoes on or bare feet. They are just ready either way. Not because adventures are easy, but because it is easy for them to say yes when wonder hits them between the eyes.
It makes sense to follow a kite’s pattern across the sky and to cloud gaze and to chase grasshoppers. It makes sense to wonder and to be pulled into the wider story of worship – it makes sense that the chase might get mysterious and that they might run into danger. And they don’t need to dress up or pretend its any other way.
I want to live like this more.
I want to feel the fear being cast out because the wonder won’t let it stay. There isn’t room for both wonder and fear, because wonder is worship and it can happen inside danger and storm and drought. The right kind of wonder, anyway.
We are too safe. We dress up and act proper and we are never prepared for what a waking God might do with his limitless power and grace. We are not looking for it like children who hunt grasshoppers with hard hats. We aren’t prepared to be surprised and we are not ready enough to be wonder-filled.
I want to worship with a hard hat – to worship in a way that expects wonder and danger and is prepared for both.