This was first published over a year ago (when about a dozen people were following this blog:). It’s been a particularly busy week or two, so perhaps you’ll enjoy this slightly edited re-post.
You know an awesome storm is on the way when it’s dark outside at 10 o’clock in the morning. After the darkness, thunder like the percussion section of the Chicago Symphony, lightning, wind and rain add their special effects to the stormy composition.
A thunderous storm performance is awesome.
Not an “awesome dude” kind of awesome like one might use to describe a good movie or a roller-coaster ride, but like the word’s actual meaning: “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.”
I was similarly awed by the power of ocean waves during a vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I thought I’d try a little body surfing like several others around me were doing. The water was only waist level, if that. How difficult could it be?
Let’s just say that I did not ride a wave; the wave rode me. I got tossed, lost a contact lens, and emerged with new respect for the power of even “small” waves.
The waves were awesome.
Other moments of awe are stunning, not because of their power, but because they are so very personal.
During that same beach vacation, a wonderful week with three other families, we were fascinated by jumping stingrays. Some stingrays, we learned, occasionally jump out of the water and flip back in. Who knew?
One late afternoon, as we sat in front of the surf, I said, “I’d love to see one of those jumping stingrays!” And in less than thirty seconds, right in front of us, a stingray jumped. Twice.
Now, you might say that was a coincidence, but I believe that God, the same powerful God who conducts symphonies in the sky and directs the crashing waves, decided to delight us in a very personal way that day.
It was awesome.
In the Bible, when God or one of his angels makes an appearance to one of his people, the universal and appropriate reaction is fall-on-your face humility, fear, stunned silence, and reverent awe. And then God, or his messenger, offers the comforting phrase: “Do not be afraid.”
God’s mighty presence and fearful power are overwhelming, yet his heart is inviting.
C.S. Lewis captured this tension in his portrayal of Aslan in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan is being described to Susan and Lucy by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, and Lucy asked, “‘Then he is safe?’ ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver… ‘Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.’” Later Mr. Beaver says of Aslan, “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t…It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you musn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
God is not tame.
God is dangerous, and he is good.
God is fearful, and he is gentle.
God is powerful, and he is tender.
He is awesome.
How do you perceive God? Fearful? Tender? Powerful? Gentle? All of the above and much more? What are some of your moments of awe?