Anne Lamott’s books are always funny and somewhat irreverent. They are also always insightful and inspirational. That’s why I bought and read her newest book, Help, Thanks, Wow. It is a book about prayer. In the introduction she writes, “My three prayers are variations on Help, Thanks, Wow. That’s all I ever need, besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient to stop, close my eyes, and turn inward.”
I, like Lamott, often pray these same three prayers. Today, however, I’d like to focus on “Wow.” “Wow,” writes Lamott, “means we are not dulled to wonder.” She also says Wow “is about having one’s mind blown by the mesmerizing or the miraculous: the veins in a leaf, birdsong, volcanoes.” In still yet another place she notes, “When we are stunned to the 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.”
Throughout my life I have had far too many “Wow” moments or prayers to count. They have come to me from many different directions but perhaps the most consistent source of Wows for me has been from God’s Creation. Even after twenty plus years of travel seeking out nature’s beauty and wonders I still find myself uttering “Wow” over and over again.
Here are some of my favorite Wow moments. Watching tens of thousands of snow geese launch simultaneously at Bosque del Apache N.W.R. Being mesmerized by the colors and movements of the Northern Lights in Alaska. Peering down into Bryce Canyon as the sun rises and paints the magical hoodoos below. Observing a newborn fawn in Shenandoah National Park stand and take its first steps. Flying in a helicopter over an active volcano in Hawaii. Seeing Giant Geyser erupt right in front of me in Yellowstone National Park with no one else in sight. Realizing that the bristlecone pine tree in front of me was over 4000 years old. Watching coastal brown bears snatch salmon out of midair at Brooks Falls. Looking into the valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains and beholding a lake of fog.
All of these things, and so much more, have caused me to utter the prayer of “Wow.” Each of those moments somehow, someway, connected me with the Creator who made them possible. But in the end there is for me no greater Wow moment than that which we celebrate at Christmas. The author of the Gospel of John put it this way: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (1:14) Every time I pause to think that the Creator of the universe took up residence as a vulnerable human being on this planet we call Earth I cannot help but say “Wow!” When I go on to remind myself that He did so out of love for you and me I once again find myself at a loss for words and can only mutter “Wow!”
As Christmas Day draws near my wish for you is that the wonder and mystery of the Incarnation will bring you comfort and joy, peace, and the simple prayer of “Wow!” Merry Christmas!