Archive for the ‘Awe’ Category

Childlike Wonder

Posted: April 11, 2011 by clairer in Awe

Have you ever seen young children at the start of a snow storm? Have you seen their excitement and awe as they rush from window to window pointing at one snowflake and then another? Have you seen adults’ reactions to the same snow storm? They will smile, perhaps, at the beauty of the snow, but all the while, they will also be thinking about cancellations, road conditions, and the level of milk in the refrigerator. What happened to that childlike joy…that childlike awe?

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This call to childlikeness can be applied to multiple areas of the Christian walk, but one aspect is wonder.

When children are exploring their world for the first time, everything is new and exciting. Birthdays and holidays are eagerly anticipated, rainbows and snow are special treats, and life is full of new things to discover and experience. But as we mature, these things become more common place. Years, birthdays, and holidays come and go, the miracles in nature (like the change of seasons) become routine, and we go through life expecting little change and wondering about fewer things.

I think a similar thing can happen in our faith as Christians. Like children seeing their first snowstorm, the first time we heard the good news of the gospel, it was awesome and exciting to us. Jesus loves me and died for me — a sinner! That fact seemed so amazing and filled us with joy. But did that truth still seem so amazing one, five, or ten years later? As we became adults in the faith, did our attitudes toward God and the gospel also become apathetic? Has the wonder of our faith become dull? Have we lost that wide-eyed child’s perspective?

I think this is one of the greatest dangers to our faith. It’s far more likely for Christians to become apathetic to the gospel message and cease to take joy in the miracle of their faith than for mature Christians to become atheists and to completely reject or abandon the faith.

But if we are to live passionate lives for Christ, we cannot lose the wonder and awe. It is that wonder and amazement that motivates us to read our Bibles, to worship God, to encourage our fellow believers, to reach out to unbelievers with the gospel. It is apathy that threatens our walk with God. When the gospel becomes old to us, God becomes an afterthought. We read our Bible and attend church out of habit instead of out of love for God and a desire to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Maintaining a childlike wonder doesn’t mean you statically maintain a child’s knowledge of the faith. In fact, a child’s wonder provokes the opposite. A child who wonders at the world around him doesn’t just say, “Hey, that’s a cool rainbow,” and then turns back to the truck in his sandbox. He asks questions about how the rainbow got there. Children are notoriously curious. The wonder provokes questions — a desire to explore and find answers.

Similarly, awe in our faith will not keep us in a childlike state of theology, but will spur us to explore our faith, to ask questions about the bible, and to study the character of God. We will grow, not stay stagnant, through a childlike awe.

But how do we foster or maintain this awe? There are three main ways to do this: reminders, study, and friends. In order to keep the gospel from getting old, we must remind ourselves of its awesomeness on a daily basis. We must daily remind ourselves of who we are, what we deserve, and the awesomeness of the grace that God has shown us. Something I know that has been helpful for me is the Valley of Vision, a collection of puritan prayers. These authors’ awe of God and the gospel is remarkable and an encouragement every time I open the book.

We must also study and explore issues of our faith. A few years ago, I went through a long dry time spiritually. I knew what I believed, but I started to question why I believed it.  So, I started reading; reading about whether or not the Bible was true, how God could be good when there was so much evil in the world, how a loving God could send people to hell, and other theological questions. My awareness and love for God grew astronomically due to that time of study. The more I learned about God, the more amazed I was at His goodness and grace. When we grow in the knowledge of God, the understanding of his holiness, his love, his goodness, and his power will cause us to be more in awe of Him. The study of our faith prompts awe, which in turn prompts us to study more. Study grows faith.

Finally, surround yourself with godly friends who are passionate about their faith. Awe of God is contagious. When you continually spend time with someone who is living in awe of God, His work, and the gospel, you also will begin to have this perspective of God.

“Grown ups” in the faith should be the most awestruck, the most passionate people in the church. They are the ones who have had the most opportunity to study and meditate on the awesomeness of God and the gospel. Excitement over our faith should grow, not dull, the longer we are Christians. Let us never outgrow the wondrousness of our faith.

Advertisements

Awesome!

Posted: November 8, 2009 by clairer in Awe, Words

It’s a word that is used every day so casually, it is hardly ever noticed.  A friend walks up and says that he just won free tickets to a concert.  “Awesome!” is the response.  A basketball player makes a game winning shot from past half-court.  “What an awesome play!” the announcers shout.  A child receives an A in her first spelling test.  “That’s awesome!” an enthusiastic dad says, smiling.  But while these things are enjoyable or even amazing, are they really awesome?

Because the word “awesome” is often defined as “inspiring awe,” an understanding of the word “awe” must also be established.  In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “awe” is defined as “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.”

While the word “awesome” is a word often used in the younger generations, it is not in any way a new word.   One of the first instances of the word in literature would probably be in the Hebrew Bible when Jacob awakens from his dream saying, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:17)  The word “awe” appears a total of 51 times in the Bible, but interestingly, despite all the heroic figures found in the Bible, the word “awe” is never used to describe people’s reaction to them (or anyone else), but only for God.

Throughout the Bible, God is praised for his “awesome deeds,” his “awesome name,” and his “awesome wonders.”  The Bible goes so far as to say, “Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven.” (Job 25:2)

However, why is it that the Bible refers solely to God as one who inspires “awe?”  Is it even possible for a human to be “awesome” in any way?  The truth is, God is the only being who can qualify for the use of the word awe.  What other being can be described as inspiring fear and dread?  God’s wrath is a fearful thing and his power is amazing!  Who has supreme authority over the universe?  Who else is truly sacred or sublime?  When one considers it, there is no one other than God who could fit that description.

However, if there is no other thing, person, or act other than God and his works that could truly be described as “awesome,” why is it such a common word used to describe practically anything good these days?  The reason is that the depth of meaning to the word has been reduced over the decades, perhaps because our culture has lost a sense of the grandeur of God.  The word has come to be interchangeable with words like, “amazing,” “spectacular,” “grand,” “overwhelming,” “breathtaking,” “remarkable,” and “splendid” as any thesaurus would attest to.  However, these words are much less powerful  than the word “awesome.”  A catch at the outfield wall to preserve a pitcher’s perfect game might be described as “remarkable,” but does it inspire fear and dread?  Winning the lottery might be described as “spectacular,” but it is mere chance – what authority is there in that?  A new pop song may be described as “amazing,” but is it sacred?

The meaning of the word has been lost over the centuries, but to many, it makes little difference.  Many mindlessly continue to use the word to describe things unworthy of the word.  The problem is that many don’t understand what continuing to use the word to describe anything other than God and His works does.  By diluting the word, we actually diminish the praise that God rightfully deserves.  If people begin to use the word casually to describe everyday events, there is no room in their minds for the even greater awesomeness of God.   Do they liken God’s awesomeness to a good movie?  To a good day?  While using the word “awesome” in an ordinary way would not be considered a sin (as the use of God’s name in vain is), people have become unaware of what they are saying.  As the word “awesome” is weakened, so people’s perceptions of God’s glory become reduced.

So next time that word, “Awesome!” slips from your lips, ask yourself a question: is it really?