Awe…

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Awe is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear, a sense of wonder, amazement, astonishment, worship, reverence, honour, love and respect.

Awe is a response to something.  It doesn’t exist in isolation but rather is the result of something seen, experienced or encountered.  Awe is informed by the mind yet is truly rooted in a heart that has seen and surrendered to the majesty and might of almighty God.

And therefore awe is the opposite of irreverence, familiarity, contempt and indifference.  Awe is about perspective, having clarity concerning God, oneself, circumstances and others.

And yet, awe seems to be a fragile commodity.  One that’s not, easily obtained, is easily lost and or replaced.  In some way children seem to have a better grasp on awe than adults do.  They seem to just delight in and be amazed by things, they believe easily, express freely the joy of discovery and wonder…

Why is it we who are older aren’t more like these young ones with mouths and eyes wide open?

I want to find myself looking like the girl at the top of this post more often, speechless and yet captivated by God, who He is and what He has done for me, for us.

Awe is linked to worship, we won’t worship want we don’t see, we won’t worship what we don’t revere and are astonished by.  Like Moses who wanted God to reveal Himself, like Paul I pray; “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10).  I want to see more, know more, encounter Jesus more – whether through Scripture reading, prayer or worship with the saints, whether through ministering to people and seeing His mighty power – I want to know Him.  There is a song we sing in Oasis that expresses this desire (King of Wonder) which at one point goes something like; “the more we see, the more we love you”!

But don’t for a minute think that this is some fanciful irrelevant impractical desire.  Paul Tripp says;

Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do, parent my children the way I do….should give direction to the way I live as a citizen in the wider community…  

Awe of a God should lift me out of the darkest moments of discourage gun and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations.  Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin while it makes me more patient with and tender towards weakness in others.  It should give me courage I would have no other way and wisdom to know when I am out of my league.  Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence. – Paul Tripp

Awe is not some peripheral thing for the Christ follower, it is central to the heart motivation of our lives.  Without awe we quickly descend into mere external moralism and or a faith that is dead and dry.  Tripp says that there is a spiritual danger that lurks here and it’s that when awe for God is dead, it is quickly replaced by awe for ourselves (pride) and so Tripp goes on to say that;

If you are not living for God, the only alternative is to live for yourself.
– Paul Tripp

As a leader one of my greatest responsibilities is to stimulate awe in others, yet awe is caught not only taught.  Awe is based on knowledge of God but it is more about the state of ones heart in response to what one knows about God. What I have come to see is that it is impossible to lead someone to a state of awe – if such awe is absent in your own heart.
Just like a tour guide in a great city like Rome – you don’t want the person who has just read more books than you.  You want your guide to also have walked the streets before, seen the city before, you want someone who knows the people, the history and the culture.

Similarly, if you’re doing an expedition in the Himalayas, surely you want the  Sherpa who has scaled Everest or K2 themselves, before you’ll feel they are qualified to guide you up the slopes.

Likewise, as a leader you can’t take people where you haven’t been yourself, where you not just went years ago but where you regularly are… What a provocation, as a leader!
May I, may we, not be those in whom there is an “awe deficit” or where the wonder has been lost.

I’ll close with the lyrics of a song by Leeland called “I wonder”, words that have been my song lately;

At the stars in the night, I wonder
At Your lightning in the sky, I shudder
Your glory is a blanket that covers, every living thing

I’m in awe at the majesty of who You are
Your love is a seal burnt inside my heart
All of the day I want to be where You are
Holy Father

And it feels like there’s not enough praise inside of me
With all these words, all my heart can sing is holy
You are holy

Jesus Christ
You bled Your love, laid down Yourself
And gave me life
In naked shame You hung and You were lifted high
Here I lay in awe and wonder
I am afraid, for no one’s ever sacrificed and loved me this way

So on my face I fall under Your heavy grace
Here I lay in awe and wonder
And I wonder

I’m in awe at the majesty of who You are
Your love is a seal burnt inside my heart
All of the day I want to be where You are
Holy Father

And it feels like there’s not enough praise inside of me
With all these words, all my heart can sing is holy
You are holy

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