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Jerry Earl Johnston: Getting back to feeling bedazzled by faith

I first met Marcus Smith of BYUradio many moons ago. He was looking for ways to freshen up his radio station’s programming.

Last week he called me to talk about his latest “air freshener”: a program called “Constant Wonder,” a radio show where people simply share their amazement at what life has to offer.

He asked me to come in and bat around notions of “wonder” for an hour.

He wants me to be a regular.

I liked the premise of the show.

I liked the title.

I like Marcus.

I went in and did my best to give him 60 minutes of “awe.”

It seems to me that people seldom gaze with wide-eyed wonder at much of anything anymore. Words like “wonderful,” “amazing,” “awesome” and “marvelous” have come to mean “first rate” when they once meant to be “dazzled beyond comprehension.”

I remember, as a boy, I’d often stand with my mouth open, gawking at something beyond my understanding.

Seeing Bryce Canyon for the first time did that to me.

So did seeing the first “Star Wars” movie.

But it’s been many years since I’ve felt stupefied. I’ve become jaded. Very little blows my mind anymore. Very little astounds me.

That's sad, I think. The truth is, everything should astound me.

If I could find my old awestruck self, not only would the Amazing Spider-Man be amazing, but so would the little garden spider edging its way along the hose.

A snowstorm would max my circuits.

A star would leave me speechless.

In such a world, all bread would be “Wonder bread” — from Twinkies to Navajo fry bread. And — since I've become a religious person — sacramental bread would be the most wondrous "Wonder bread" of all.

I suppose that is where I miss my old sense of wonder the most, in religious matters. In days of yore, there was so much “awesome wonder” in spiritual things that, as the hymn says, “I scarce could take it in.”

When I’d sing “Oh, it is wonderful!” in the hymn “I Stand All Amazed,” the word meant “wondrous,” not just “really super” — which is the way I sing it now.

In hymns where the word “wonder” appears, a word for the divine always seems to be close at hand.

It’s there in the “wondrous little stranger” that the wise men viewed “With Wondering Awe.”

Divinity authored the “wondrous plan” in “'Tis Sweet To Sing the Matchless Love” and is the object of wonder in the song “I Wonder As I Wander.”

Back in junior Sunday School, I often stared at a portrait of Jesus on the wall. I didn’t feel loyal, or grateful. I don’t remember feeling reverent or even feeling a desire to be like him.

I felt “blown away.” I felt my tiny mind was on fire.

I’d love to reclaim that feeling, to bring it back.

I think the time has come for me — and maybe for others — to begin feeling “bedazzled” by faith again, to start marveling and wondering the way children do.

Maybe the new radio show “Constant Wonder” and my friend Marcus Smith can help me get back there.

I’m looking forward to participating on the air with him and plan to listen closely to what everyone else has to say.