2017 // The Year of Wide-Eyed Wonder

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Last year, I chose a word to embody the mindset I wanted to explore in 2016. The word was audacity. This year, I debated on what word I should choose. At first I thought authenticity. But that didn't feel right. I don't really have a problem being authentic, if I'm honest. This year's word came to me without a lot of fanfare. I didn't really choose it myself, either. The Lord brought it to me, right in his timing, just like he always does.
It was almost the end of 2016 when I sat on my bed, Bible open, pen in hand. I was listening to a podcast because I didn't have the energy to think. Because I had a to-do list a mile long but no desire to accomplish anything. Because it was early in the morning but I was still tired. I'd been out of school for almost two weeks, but I was still suffering from a complete loss of energy.

I don't remember who was speaking. It was a guy who preached at a fairly large church in Nashville, I think. He started rambling with an anecdote that no doubt connected to the sermon, I'm sure, but I didn't want to listen. So I skipped ahead. He started reading Ecclesiastes 12. Preaching on Ecclesiastes at Christmastime was odd to me, but I kept listening.

...of the making of many books there is no end, and much studying wearies the body. [Boy, did that resonate with me.] Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

I thought it was funny. I was in the middle of writing a novel -- I still am -- and I had just finished midterms. Solomon knew what it meant to study hard, evidently. He knew that you keep learning, you keep searching, and somehow, even when you find something that enamors you, it drains you. You feel stuck. Like a zombie. And even caffeine doesn't help.

It's not that I didn't like learning; it was more the fact that the more you learn, the less you know. It was overwhelming, to say the least. And school is such a generic way of learning. What had taken away the wonder?

This passage in Ecclesiastes resonated with me. I knew exactly what Solomon was talking about. I had a front row seat to the exhaustion of "much studying" and "the making of many books." Ecclesiastes is basically a story of Solomon trying to find worth in the frivolities of life. He was a pretty cultured guy. He searched for a long time to see what in life was really worth it. And the conclusion he came to? Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

The speaker in this podcast went on to define what fearing God actually is. We often equate it to actual fear, I think. The monsters-under-you-bed kind of fear. In reality, fearing God is giving him an honest and accurate respect. Fearing God is being constantly aware of him and who he is, and that awareness produces wonder. Wide-eyed wonder.

I went star-gazing the other night. I looked up and pondered how anyone could ever feel big looking at the stars. In the matter of a few moments I was caught up in the wonder of life. How strange it is that we even exist. It is strange to be breathing, strange to be thinking, strange to be walking and talking and learning. Can you just take a moment to step back out of your life for a moment and wonder at the strangeness of this life we live? To look up and believe that this is all a coincidence? A compilation of cosmic forces that do not have the capacity to think or care at all? Preposterous.

When you look at it from a distance, life is beautiful and strange and so wonder-filled. The world, I think, tries to trivialize a lot of things. People try to reduce Jesus to a psychological crutch. They try to reduce literature to merely a story playing inside one's head. They try to reduce life to a small, insignificant hundred years on a spinning ball of water and land rotating around a giant sphere of gas. But don't let them take the wonder from you.

I believe that life is meant to be one giant adventure. We don't get the opportunity to fall down a rabbit hole and dine with a Mad Hatter; but this life is our Wonderland. In a world that wants us to bend to the system, I want to be abstract and vivacious and sometimes downright mad with wonder. I want to create. I want to explore. I want to live.

The things that matter are very rarely the things they teach you at school. The things that matter, more often than not, are the things that a night of star-gazing or a C.S. Lewis novel or a few good moments in prayer will teach you. Have you ever let yourself step back to wonder at it all?

You are here, and you are alive. But are you living?

For me, this year's word is wonder. It is defined as a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, or inexplicable. This life is all three of those things to me. I hope that this word, much like audacity, will become a sort of life mantra. I don't want just this year to be wonder-filled; I want every day of my life to be wonder-filled. And though 2016 has passed, I am still finding the courage to be truly audacious. Life is a journey, and these words I hope to carry with me.
do you have a word for this year? what is it, and how are you using it to improve your lifestyle? what's your biggest hope for the new year? let me know in the comments!


  1. Wow, Mary Shelley, this post is absolutely stunning. The word I chose for this year is victory. Victory over sin, shame, and fear that is holding me back from being completely devoted to God's will for my life.

    This post really gets me thinking, and I absolutely adore posts like that. Makes me think more about every breath, noise and movement that is dubbed "normal, boring, everyday life." I oftentimes forget to truly enjoy God's beautiful gift of life. Thank you for this reminder!

    God is using you to tell me what I need to hear right now! Thank you, Mary Shelley!!!


    1. Victory is a perfect word for the new year! I appreciate your optimism! Thank you for reading, abi!

  2. I love this so much, Mary Shelley. You write with such an eloquence, that I have to say I'm obsessed with your style.

    I hope that 2017 is filled with so, so much wonder. My word for the year is fearless. Not sure how that'll go, but I'm going to give it everything I've got. <3

  3. Goodness, Mary Shelley... This is powerfully written, and marvelously true. Thank you for sharing!
    I know what you're saying... The past few nights, there's been some kind of moon eclipse, and tonight, it was an amazing red color and way larger than 'normal' as it rose over the trees... i hurried to take photos. And each time when I'm under the vast, star filled sky... I am blown away by the beauty. It is all so beautiful. So wonderful. Yahweh's Creations show His handiwork- and we, humans, are His Creations. Made in HIS image. How can life be boring, or not worth it, when we know this? It is amazing.
    I really love this post, Mary Shelley. I can't begin. YHVH bless!
    -Angela | thepeculiarmessenger.wordpress.com

  4. Beautifully written post! I've never chosen a word for the year but your choices of audacity and then wonder are really excellent ones and they resound with me much more than most I've seen people choose. I may have to reflect and pick a word for this year after all ... or at least see if I can select a word that sums up my 2016 in review :)

    Abi | theleft-handedtypist.blogspot.com

  5. I love reading your post!Informative.