Awesome Indeed

What is it in the human heart that attracts many to extreme sports? We all desire an awesome feeling of fear. Inside every single one of us is a desire to feel truly alive.

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest…

21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (Heb 12:18-22)

Over the last few decades we have commercialized this deep desire in us all. Jumping out of airplanes, scuba diving, roller coaster riding, or name any other thrill seeking adventure is a pursuit of this elusive tremedous mystery we call “thrill.”

We seek the excitement of fear. Fear, we hope, will make us feel the risk and joy of feeling truly alive.

Rudolf Otto called it, “Mysterium tremendum et fascinans”  or the fearful and fascinating mystery. The encounter with the beyond that is both terrifyingly awesome yet stunningly fascinating.

A very good way to describe this fascinating mystery is the word numinous. C.S. Lewis described it as a feeling utterly different than fear. Fear he said is the feeling we get when we are told that the adjacent room with the door ajar contains a tiger. Numinous is the feeling we get when we are told that there is ghost or spirit in the room next door.

Let’s recover the wonder of fear as we tremble before the majesty of divinity. It is this quivering that is not fearful, only awesome. True wonder inspired fear will make us feel truly alive. The encounter will be awesome indeed. We need Someone other than ourselves to breathe life into us. That is why Jesus breathed on his disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”(John 20:22)

Days of Awe

Gen. 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Shmuel Agnon, the nobel literature prize winner, was once asked if Judaism ever had anything like Lent. Did Judaism ever practice 40 days of fasting?No that didn’t happen. But something amazing and awe inspiring happens from New Year (Rosh Hashanah) to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Ten days of awe. After a pause and think he replied, “Yes, the Days of Awe.”

In many churches the Lenten season will begin with the minister speaking those ancient words, “Remember we are dust and to dust we shall return.” Lent reminds us of our mortality. More importantly Lent restores in us a sense of awe and wonder.

When God made humanity, he took lifeless, cosmic dust and breathed life into us. We became living souls. When we turned our back on Him, we chose entropy and dust. God would not leave us to death, but rather became one of us, even death and at that death on a cross. It is in Lent that we remember that God who gives life gave up his life that we would never ever have to return to the dust from where we came.

May these Lenten days be Days of Awe…