When you grow up in the desert, a day at the ocean sounds glorious!
Our family went to visit our friends who lived in Southern California and we were pumped to go to the beach! When we got there, we were blown away by how little time it took our friends to drive to get to the ocean. They weren’t nearly as exhilarated by the sight of the water as we were. “Why aren’t you as excited as we are to see the beach?” I remember asking my friend.
“We go every week. I love the beach, but when you go this often, you don’t get as excited anymore.”
Familiarity and proximity have the ability to dull our sense of wonder and awe about any host of things. While our friends had lost their sense of wonder about the ocean, the stakes are much higher when we lose our sense of wonder about God.
This temptation is at the heart of @Thrive Worship’s song, “Coming Back.”
RELATED CONTENT: Thrive Worship Creates an Anthem of Return in “Coming Back”
Thrive Worship calls us back to our first love, Jesus, and warns us of the danger of familiarity, going through the motions, and losing our sense of wonder.
“Sometimes our familiarity drags us away from holy wonder and even our genuine love for God,” Mitch Wong said in an interview with CCM Magazine.
This danger is not a new problem. Back in the first century, while the first followers of Jesus were still alive, the Apostle John addressed this problem in the church of Ephesus. In Revelation 2, Jesus applauds the Ephesian believers. “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars.You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.”
Like almost all of the churches addressed in the introduction to Revelation, though, Jesus also has a rebuke for this group of His followers. “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”
The Ephesian church was doing great work and they had not compromised their doctrine. What could possibly be missing? Their heart! The source and motivation of their devotion had been lost.
“Coming Back” could have been written as a response song by one of the Ephesian believers.
“I don't want to come entitled
I want to run in like a child
Caught up in the joy and wonder
Of Your presence”
Mitch Wong has experienced the creeping presence of entitlement and ingratitude. “We talk about the wonder of God’s presence so much that it’s almost become commonplace, yet [it] is anything but common.”
So, if we don’t want to be entitled or we fear that we’ve lost our sense of wonder, then what can we do?
First, we can meditate and spend time reflecting on God’s nature and actions. A passage of Scripture like Psalm 8 is a great starting point for this kind of meditation.
"When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”
Reading and meditating on this passage can be a big reset for our sense of wonder.
Second, we can get outdoors and experience the wonder of God’s creation. Standing next to the ocean, gazing up at the stars, hiking up a mountain, or watching birds - any of these activities can reset our awareness of God’s care and concern for us. Jesus called us to this kind of wonder-reset in his most famous sermon. “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?“
Third, we can develop our gratitude muscle. I’ve discovered that gratitude and entitlement rarely co-exist. So, like an arm curl builds a stronger bicep, listing out 3-5 things I am grateful to God for each day builds my gratitude muscle. Committing to a daily gratitude practice for a month leads to a list over 100 items long. I engage in this practice every November, as well as other times during the year, and I consistently find gratitude renews my wonder and love for God.
If you’ve grown cold, distant or entitled when it comes to your love for God, then remember that the invitation is always open to come back to your first love. You can make a move back towards God and take steps to renew your sense of wonder at the incredible love He has for you.
Start by listening to Thrive Worship’s "Coming Back" today. Just as our friends were able to recapture their wonder of the beauty of the ocean because they saw our family’s wonder that day, may you find your wonder renewed as you listen to Thrive Worship sing of coming back to wonder and worship today."
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the proud parents of three children. He loves helping hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com.