This seems to me the main problem… How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?… How can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honor of being our own town?

G.K. Chesterton

The path of wonder seems well worn. It’s a journey that brings us down to size. Just think of those pictures that reveal that our galaxy is just one of billions more. Or think of when you’ve stared into the empty darkness of a midnight sky or an endless ocean. Such images remind us that the universe is more vast than we can imagine. They leave us with a sense of wonder that overwhelms. In the face of such an incomprehensible abyss, one can’t help but feel humbled and small.

But religion never wants us to stop there. “Hold on,” it says. Just stand at the abyss a bit longer. Lean in a little bit more. And when you do, you will realize that this path does not end with a deep darkness that does not care. No, if we remain there in witness long enough, a new message emerges. You look into the vast mystery and surprisingly, it stares back, as if to say, “Welcome home.”

As astronomers tell us, contemplation of the vast universe does not make them feel smaller; it makes them realize the larger story of which they are a part. We are stardust, as they say. From the vastness we came and to it we will return. In other words, the path of wonder is not so much about feeling small; it’s about feeling connected.

And not just connected to the stars, but also to each other. Wonder, and its cousin awe, reduces us in order to make room for something more than our self-centered needs, wants, and worries. With our narcissism shrunk down to a reasonable size, it becomes possible to notice that we are not the only ones up there on the stage. It’s in this way that looking up into the cosmos allows us to look across at each other, which is, of course, a huge gift — because while being center stage and center of the universe can feel powerful, it’s also a very lonely place to be.

So friends, don’t just look up at the stars this month. Let’s make sure that our looking up eads to us to looking across. And as we do, may we — like our friend G.K. Chesterton — not simply be astonished at the universe, but also feel at home in it.

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