I am showing a grandchild my wunderkammer for the first time.
A few years ago, I came across a fascinating piece of forgotten history. Starting as early as the 1500’s, people collected natural items to display in a “cabinet of wonders.” For those wealthy enough, a whole room was dedicated to the collection. (Wunderkammer literally translates as “wonder room.”) When guests would come to visit, one would reveal the treasures and discuss natural history.
I decided I would make one myself, but on a small scale -- repurposing a small spice cabinet I had in the attic. It would be something I could share with my grandchildren.
This past week, I showed it to my oldest grandson. Nearly four years old, he is bright and thoughtful. Being the type of child who processes new things quietly, I wasn’t surprised by his silence as I opened the doors and explained the contents.
And, frankly, my wonders are a bit short of wonderful. Dried seed pods. Two kinds of paper wasp nests. A broken arrowhead. A metallic rock. (Nothing quite as exotic as a wonder-room from the early 1600’s which boasted of a mermaid’s hand, dragon egg, and phoenix feathers!)
I’m happy with mine. It’s a start.
There is a connection here to Isaiah. (Just in case you wondered if I wandered.) Toward the end of Hezekiah’s song of praise over his healing and new lease on life, he says this:
The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)
This is part of the joy (and responsibility) of being alive in this world: we are to teach the following generations about the faithfulness of the Lord. Other Scriptures expand the scope of that teaching. For instance:
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. (Ps. 78:4)
It’s about learning to see. First, noticing the world around us. But then, second, recognizing in that world the over-the-top beauty, order and imagination of the Creator. Let’s not stop there. Third, we need to see through these objects that this mind-staggering God loves us.
My hope is my grandkids and I can make this an ongoing pursuit. Each of us can be on the lookout for things to add to my (our) cabinet of curiosities. And this way, we’ll do more than just revive a cultural tradition.
We’ll build a practice of praise.
Reader: What natural object would you put in a cabinet of wonders? Send me a photo of it!