Awe is a word that we throw around rather lightly these days. We talk of things being “awesome”, from a particular food that stimulates our taste buds to a television show we enjoy. As is the case with most words and language, the more often we misuse a word the less meaning it comes to have. Soon it has no meaning at all.
As humans we are hard-wired to be awed, to find something that excites us beyond the everyday humdrum activities of living. Sadly, most of us have lost or never experienced what should be the ultimate awe, so we are forced to substitute lesser sources, and in doing so greatly diminish what it means to experience awe.
I’m in the process of reading a book entitled Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say and Do by Paul David Tripp. It is a book I highly recommend to anyone who struggles with the Christian life and trying to understand why we constantly fall short of what we know we should be. The author explains that the root of our problem is not what we might think it to be. Our problem is one of awe or, more accurately, lack of it.
The only way we can move into a proper relationship with God is to establish a sense of awe about who He is. Paul tells us in Romans that God has given us a myriad of clues throughout creation that should create in us a sense of overwhelming awe. Let me share a few with you.
- Have you ever examined a leaf? I mean really taken an up-close look. Take any leaf on any tree and hold it up to the sunlight. If you take the time to inspect it you’ll see thousands of channels running over the surface, not unlike a street map of a large city. Those are the means by which each cell receives nourishment and water, and pass the energy and nourishment resulting from photosynthesis (a whole other miraculous process) to the rest of the tree.
- As I sit here writing there is a white-out blizzard going on outside which is supposed to drop up to a foot of snow on us today. Stop and consider: of all the billions (trillions? gazillions?) of snowflakes that make up a foot of snow, no two flakes are exactly alike. Could you imagine having to come up with that many variations on a simple six-sided crystalline formation? My brain hurts just thinking about it.
- As my wife reminded me this morning, think of all the people that have ever existed or currently live on earth. With the exception of identical twins, each one of us is unique: there has never been or will be anyone exactly like us Before you set off on your world ego trip, consider that there are billions of lives that are just as unique as yours. In the grand scheme, none of us is truly more or less important than anyone else.
God shows us parts of Himself through what He has created. He is the Creator of the grand design, but is also intimately present in the tiniest details. He knows each of us far better than we do ourselves. He knows the exact number of hairs on your head (for some of us there aren’t as many to count as previously), the number of blood cells circulating in your arteries and veins at any given moment, and the exact condition of every cell that makes up your being. He cares just as much about the tiniest microbe as he does the largest animals on the planet. And if he cares so much for the rest of creation what makes you think He could care less about you who are made in His image?
The author of the book makes the case that as Christians our struggle is primarily an awe problem. When we fail to be awed by what we see when we look at God we lose our gratitude for what He has provided for us- everything. Instead, we focus on our own inadequacies, our wants, and desires, and covet the things of this world which provide no lasting benefit. By doing so we blunt the Spirit’s ability to accomplish God’s purposes for and through us. As a result, our ministry and message as Christians and as the church are ineffective and lost in the noise of the world.
I encourage each of us to relentlessly seek to discover or rediscover a sense of awe in the One who is worthy of it. God tells us that He may be found if we will only seek Him. Immerse yourself in scripture, and look at the picture God paints of Himself there. Take time to look for clues that God has sprinkled throughout creation. Be awed; it will help you establish a more balanced view of your own life and bring you a new sense of gratitude for what He has done for you.