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Awe & Wonder

Wonder. Awe. Perhaps having a sense of wonder and awe is what Jesus meant when he said we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God.

 

The Kingdom of God is not to be confused with heaven. The Kingdom of God is here, now. It is anywhere and everywhere Jesus reigns as king. Jesus is the perfect reflection of God. In Jesus dwells the fullness of the godhead bodily. God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. The triune God is perfect love, perfect grace, perfect beauty. God is omnipresent, everywhere.

 

Where God is, there is love, grace, beauty, and therefore, awe and wonder. To hear Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, see a newborn baby, the Grand Canyon, the Never Summer Range, or a sunset in Hawaii for the first time is to experience a sense of wonder and awe. If we are aware, really aware, we are not analyzing. We are not separate beings having an experience; we are lost in the experience, the wonder. We are part of the experience. It cannot be described or captured on film.

 

Too often, we are taught that faith is concurrence with a list of beliefs, a creed, a statement of some sort. We mistakenly conclude that eternal destiny is determined by believing the right dogmata. But faith is not checking boxes of beliefs; faith is connecting with the ultimate meaning behind the beliefs. Faith is experiencing awe and wonder, sitting in the mystery of the love and beauty, and then attaching to the God who is the Source of all love, beauty, awe, and wonder.

 

Rabbi Abraham Heschel (1907-1972) wrote:

 

“Faith is not belief, an assent to a proposition; faith is attachment to transcendence, to the meaning beyond the mystery. 

 

“Knowledge is fostered by curiosity; wisdom is fostered by awe. Awe precedes faith; it is the root of faith. We must be guided by awe to be worthy of faith. 

 

“Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you. The loss of awe is the avoidance of insight. A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom, for the discovery of the world as an allusion to God.”

 

Abraham J. Heschel, Who Is Man? (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965), 88–89.

 

 

In a world filled with conspiracy theories, lies and disinformation, cynicism, disparagement, distrust, and violence, we are collectively in great danger of losing any remaining sense of reverence. We see groups rather than people; we generalize, project our fears and feed our minds with negativity.

 

It is high time to regain our sense of awe, to regrasp our ability to revere, to recover the childlike wonder we once had. Both our personal mental health and our collective survival depends on it.

 

Slow down. Step back. Walk slowly in the woods, through the desert, on the beach. Take a long careful look at a tidepool, a flower, a bumblebee. Observe your breath. Gaze deeply into the eyes of your lover. Read a sacred text very slowly and repeatedly. Spend an hour studying a painting in an art museum. Spend an hour deeply listening, really listening, to your partner or friend. When we are open to it, a sense of awe and wonder will return. It was always there before life got in the way.



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