We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.
– G. K. Chesterton
Have you ever considered how simple it is to make a phone call?
Barring occasional reception issues, this has become an amazingly streamlined process. You don’t need to stop and wonder if the technology holding the pieces of plastic and metal that make up your cell phone will survive the call. You can expect with a high level of certainty that the signal will reach the other individual’s phone and the call will proceed without a hitch.
When you do stop to think about it, given the hardships many face in a hurting world, it’s remarkable that so much of what we do is so streamlined. As quoted by F.A. Hayek in Individualism and Economic Order, Alfred Whitehead says,
It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking [about] what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.
We rarely stop to think about how remarkable a thing this is. Given mankind’s struggle for peace and prosperity throughout history, this is cause for hope.
Work Before and After the Fall
Before the Fall, we were designed for and called to work. But after Adam sinned, our souls were severed from relationship with their Creator. The Fall affected creation, too. The ground does not respond the way it was intended to, and work now involves toil.
God tells Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:17-19 that,
Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Fortunately, though the Fall defines much of life as we know it, this is not the end of the story. As Hugh Whelchel describes in his blog post on the Bible’s grand story, redemptive history can be divided into four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
The creative work that was begun in the first part and interrupted in the second has been taken up at the cross and will be carried to completion through the redemption and restoration of all of creation. We can have hope that even though the day’s hardship might seem overwhelming, our lives will not always be characterized by stress and adversity.
Grateful for Wonder
We find ourselves in a peculiar limbo on this side of heaven. We’re caught between our calling to work and the brokenness of the world.
Yet there is something we can do, even while in between the times. We can be grateful for the redemption of our souls and also of this earth.
This means that we will be able to develop tools and experience the benefits of technology, though we won’t necessarily reach the level of flourishing on this earth for which we were designed before the Fall. Even in their broken state, the pieces of this world are gradually being redeemed, and our labor to fulfill the cultural mandate blessed.
During this season of Thanksgiving, let us allow the small wonders all around to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and how his work makes possible our work. Because of him, we are no longer bound by futility. We can look forward to the redemption of all things, and we can witness the promise of hope in the daily wonders around us. Through him, we can marvel at the simplicity of a phone call.
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