A Joyful Path, Year Three – Week 17: Awe And Wonder — Story: I Am In Awe Of This Universe!

For Classroom or Home School


Week 17: Winter
Lesson 13: Awe and Wonder

My dreams are a way for me to connect with Spirit.

Getting to the Heart of the Lesson

Astrophysicists, psychologists, and theologians all agree: humans need to feel awe. (1) When we experience awe on a regular basis, we are happier, and we feed a healthy evolution and survival of our species. Why? Think about times you have felt awe. In these moments, our sense of time falls away, our sense of self-importance shrinks, our ability to feel connected to something far greater expands, and our willingness to extend generosity, love and courage to others increases. Now think about times you have felt wonder. Wonder is an experience of awe in the form of mystery- the incomprehensible. Along with wonder, we might also feel the ache of longing — wanting to learn more, to know and more deeply understand.

What is increasingly clear is living in a world that emphasizes knowing, solutions and finality takes a toll on the human spirit. There is nothing wrong with pursuing answers and greater understanding — our lives depend on it. It is wrong, though, to believe humans find answers without fully inviting the transformative process of awe and wonder. Without the excitement, humility and expansion that awe and wonder play in our learning process, we can be driven to the suffering of perfectionism and small-thinking. Without awe and wonder, we tend toward separatist, myopic points of view that are not only untrue, but also cause great harm to ourselves, others, and the living system that is Earth. The experience of awe and wonder is a doorway to the numinous, the place that allows us to feel the presence of divinity and spirit in ways that offer consolation, ecstasy and even guidance. Author Anne Lamott says it this way,

When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we’re finally starting to get somewhere. It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means,

what to expect and how it all hangs together. When we are stunned to a place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it’s down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is ‘Wow,’ that’s a prayer.

In this lesson, we will invite the children into experiences of awe and wonder. It is important for children to feel encouraged into such spaces. In your time together, emphasize the value in “not knowing.” Being able to say, “I don’t know,” can be a valuable step in beginning to see or appreciate something in a new way.

(NOTE: If you wish to make this week’s lesson more intentionally focused on Christmas, spend time on the emotions and reactions of the shepherds, Mary and Joseph in the story of Jesus’s birth. Consider how their willingness to experience awe and wonder allowed them to experience the unimaginable, and to participate in a moment that changed the world forever.)

Teacher Reflection

Some reading and a 10-20 min exercise (more if you have time and wish to take it) so you are able to experience the teachings offered through this lesson.

Where do you most readily experience awe and wonder?

Option 1 — For at least ten min this week (and more if you have it), put yourself in an experience of awe and wonder. It can be through photos or videos, prayer or meditation, love and ecstasy, or a physical encounter in a place that brings you into an expanded or open-hearted state. After the experience, notice how you feel different (relaxed, excited, inspired, loving, focused, at peace, etc.).

Option 2 — If you are celebrating Christmas, how might you – like those in the story of Jesus’s birth — create and embrace awe and wonder in your surroundings? How does this time of year – the season, the music, the food, or decorations – invite a state of awe and wonder. Welcome it. Indulge it. How might you keep the awe and wonder of Christmas with you after decorations are put away and people return to school and work-life routines?

Read through the lesson before your time with the children. Decide which Activity Exploration will work best for your class (There are usually two options; choose one). Just below the heading, “Children’s Lesson and Story” you will find the preparations checklist for this lesson so you can collect any needed materials or make arrangements to support your selected activity.

Sacred Text Quotes

Hebrew Scriptures. Psalms 33:8 (NRSV)

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Hebrew Scriptures. Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NRSV)

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

Christian Scriptures.. Luke 2:16-22 (NRSV)

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Islam. Hadith of Muslim (2)

I asked the Messenger of God, “Did you see your Lord?” He said,“He is a Light; how could I see Him?”

Wisdom Quotes

I did not ask for success. I asked for wonder and you gave it to me. ― Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. ― Socrates

Emergence is one of the best concepts I have learned for discussing this wow, this wonder. Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. ― Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead – his eyes are closed. ― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

The more I wonder, the more I love. ― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

In a real sense everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see. Plato was right: “The visible is a shadow cast by the invisible.” And so God is still around. All of our knowledge, all of our developments, cannot diminish his being one iota. These new advances have banished God neither from the microcosmic compass of the atom nor from the vast, unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. The more we learn about this universe, the more mysterious and awesome it becomes. God is still here. ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Be sure to click here to download the Teaching Introduction and Instructions.

Review & Commentary