What do you do when you lose track of your inner child? How do you find your way when your imagination is hemmed in by the responsibilities of adulthood and you’ve lost your sense of wonder? How do you reclaim the joy of living, when life has become a chore?
The recently-released film “Christopher Robin” shouts out: “You return to the 100 Aker Wood! And then the Wood returns to you!” There is always a child and a bear – or a shark, dolphin, pangolin, or lion – in all of us, eclipsed by the cares of the day, yet ready to spring forth to add zest and wonder to persons who have seen it all!
A number of years ago, I rediscovered the 100 Aker Wood when I was living in a high rise in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just a few miles from the Capitol. It wasn’t 100 acres; in fact, it was less than an acre of greenery, trees, and a babbling brook that my two year old grandson and I discovered one afternoon in the shadow of high rises and adjacent one of the nation’s best known thoroughfares. Yet, it was a place of renewal, relaxation, and rejoicing for a sixty year old man and his young grandson.
Winnie the Pooh is all about “today,” the Holy Here and Now in which we live. Winnie’s Gospel isn’t not anxious, as Jesus says, about tomorrow, but rejoices in this Holy Moment. Winnie’s Gospel shouts out: “This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Sadly, as we grow older, we leave the Wood and Garden, lose track of wonder in the complexities of school, employment, and adult responsibilities. We often justify our busyness and anxieties by claiming they are “reality.” But, are they really “reality”? Every spiritual tradition has asserted that beneath the maelstrom of human endeavor, of our strutting and fretting, and self-importance, there is a Deeper Reality, the “sacrament of this present moment,” which, when rediscovered, brings holiness and joy to every task, even the most mundane and bothersome.
Christopher Robin grows up, grows busy, and grows old. But, there is hope in the rediscovery that wonder is right around the corner, in fact, it is always within us! Rediscovering wonder is not just one more thing to do. It is the result of letting go of our need to be in control, have all the answers, and manage reality. It is the result of throwing open the doors of perception to realize the infinity of life.You may still claim adult responsibilities. You may still go to work and seek excellence in your professional life. You may still picket and challenge injustice. But, with the sense of life’s wonder and beauty, even these will become a joy. Over thirty years ago, I heard a liberation theologian – I’ve forgotten his name – respond to the question, “Why is social transformation important?” To which he responded, so people can write poetry! Seventy years ago, one of the first North American liberation theologians, the mystic Howard Thurman, asserted that one of the greatest tragedies of poverty is the loss of imagination among children. Political transformation is so important that it must be joyful, playful, and creative to succeed.
We can’t possess joy and wonder, we can’t own it, but we can re-open to it. Pausing, noticing, letting go of our agendas and strangle hold on time, reorienting our spiritual GPS, and awakening to the wonder of this Holy Here and Now awakens us once more to this moment’s wonder and the 100 Aker Wood right where we are.
Bruce Epperly is Pastor, South Congregational Church, UCC, in Centerville, MA, and a professor in the D.Min. program at Wesley Theological Seminary. He is author of over forty books, including “The Gospel According to Winnie the Pooh,” “The Mystic in You: Discovering a God Filled World,” “Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians,” and three volumes of an ongoing series of short books on process theology: “Process and Ministry,” “Process Spirituality: Practicing Holy Adventure,” and “Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God.” He can be reached for lectures, retreats, and seminars at firstname.lastname@example.org.