Perhaps the most overused word in all the English language is the word “awesome.” We call people, places, and moments awesome without any real regard for the true meaning of the term. In fact, the word is so colloquial that it’s almost a slang word now. It’s lost its meaning. In the same way, we’ve lost our awe. We’re a people of “next.” The emergence of social media has led to a generation that lives in constant update mode. We’re incessantly refreshing, waiting with bated breath for the next page, the next story, the next gizmo that’ll fulfill all the wants and needs of the soul. Next. Next. Next. In the midst of all our refreshing and updating, we’ve neglected the art of reflection. No longer do we sit and chew and muse on what we just read or saw or heard. No sooner is the book finished than the next one’s opened. (I’m very guilty of this.) The closing “Amen” is still ringing in our ears as we figure out how to cram in all we want to do on Sunday afternoon.
We’ve lost our awe. We’ve lost our sense of wonder and amazement at things God has said and done on our behalf. What’s more, we’ve lost our holy fear for who God is himself, in his person. The God who speaks and universes are created, who moves a finger and worlds are turned upside-down, this God has been replaced by a plethora of lesser lords that promise fulfillment but only deliver futility.
“It’s only when my heart is captured by the awe of God that I will view my identity rightly. And it’s only when I view my identity rightly that I will have a proper sense of need and a willingness to abandon my plan for the greater and more glorious plan of God.” (Tripp, 47)
In Awe, Tripp speaks to something he terms “awe amnesia,” which is what’s happened to us all as a result of the Fall. We’ve forgotten to rightly place our true and foundational awe before the Lord and Creator of the heavens, and in so doing have corrupted good things, making them little, fallible God’s. This can be seen in nearly every area life, from work to home to ministry to devotions to parenting to church, etc. The battle for our attention, our devotion, our awe is ongoing. There’s never a moment when you aren’t fighting for the awe of your heart. There’s never a moment when this war isn’t raging between awe of God and awe of self.
All the aspects of life are fighting for your enraptured attention. Each of us can become enslaved to finding our awe in our identity, our ministry, our relationships, our jobs, our children, etc. And when we make these things, these good things the primary sources of our awe, we bastardize God’s created order. You see, as Tripp says, “Every awesome thing in creation is designed to point you to the One who alone is worthy of capturing and controlling the awe of your searching and hungry heart.” (Tripp, 21) This is what we’re told throughout the pages of Scripture. Indeed, you might say, that the Bible is a recounting of all the people who’ve misplaced their awe and a retelling of the myriad of ways God gets that awe — the awe he’s due and rightfully worthy of — back. The war for the awe of our hearts can’t be won by us. It requires outside intervention. “Our only hope is for a rescuer to come and free us from ourselves.” (Tripp, 39) This is what God’s done in the gospel. He’s gloriously and graciously come to us to return and recapture the awe of the hearts of men.
Awe is a book that isn’t meant to be read in a week’s time. I would encourage you to read this book at a slow pace, chewing on the words and phrases and illustrations Tripp employs. If you haven’t read this yet, do it now.
Notes & References:
Paul Tripp, Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, & Do (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).