The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
Have you ever been in the presence of something that puts you in your place, but in all the right ways? Perhaps you read a biography of someone who overcame insurmountable odds and you realize that your daily complaints are a bit juvenile. Maybe you worked really hard on cultivating a perfect flower garden, but then you take a walk and encounter a meadow that is naturally bursting with more color than you could ever dream of. Or maybe you wandered alone into a grove of the oldest living things in the world and suddenly realized you were on holy ground. That’s what happened to Bethany and I earlier this month.
During our recent trip west, one of my professors tipped us off to a lesser known trail in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park. It was far removed from the carefully fenced off Sequoias a few miles away near the welcome center. This was a little harder to get to, but the payoff was amazing. After 6 miles of hiking, the trail dropped us down into the largest single grove of Sequoias in the world. Towering silently and reaching over 200 feet high and as wide as city streets, the trees took our breath away. We were completely captivated in this quiet grove. We were standing among living things that had weathered dozens of forest fires, droughts, and storms. Many were alive when Jesus grew up Galilee on the other side of the earth. Some were alive when Moses came down Mount Sinai. Before America was colonized, they were already 1000 years old. They had seen things beyond me. And I could feel the wonder of it all as we quietly walked alone among them. There were no words.
God’s people have always been encouraged to claim God's beauty around us and stand back in awe. It’s how we stay aware of God’s presence. It’s how we keep our perspective right. And it’s how we fight the disease of flavorless living in a world that’s becoming robotic, stressful, and lifeless. But it’s easy to be amazed at God’s beauty among the Sequoia in California. In daily life, however, we’re awful at being... awe-full.
Life feels mundane most of the time.
Get up. Coffee. Get ready for work/prep the kids/your routine.
Go through your day.
Crash at the end of the day, exhausted.
Do it again.
I fight that temptation all the time. But I’m learning an interesting truth through this. Rather than making the rest of the world seem more mundane, experiences of awe can do the opposite. They can teach us to see God’s beauty and wonder all over the place. Experiences of awe can retrain our brains to see that all of life is a gift from God, even in difficult times— and that we might see something wonderful if we simply are available for it. A smile from a stranger, a kind word, and a beautiful sunset are all opportunities for us to take a moment and be filled with awe. An act of forgiveness toward us or from us is breathtaking. A life transformed by Jesus, even in the smallest way, restores wonder to the freedom and grace God gives each person.
Look someone in the eye.
Explore the color around you in a deeper way. Notice the kindness of someone and think about how they are made in God’s image.
Pick up a leaf and examine it. Watch a child play. And like Wendell Berry writes,
“Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.
Not to be a stick in the mud, but it will almost certainly require getting off your phone.
Look around and become filled with wonder at God’s beauty all around you this week. And somehow, even with the smallest action, find a way to participate in it.
Jesus, open my eyes to your wonder, so that I might live in light of eternity.