Do you know what “awe” is? I mean, well beyond a dictionary definition of the word. Have you ever been awed?
I have had times in my life when awe has overcome me, and they are moments I will always remember. Such as walking into St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna with the pipe organ playing, walking to the very center of the floor and looking up, up, up where all of the walls and lines rise to the very top of the highest spire. Awesome. Or it can be when you see the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley for the first time. It’s those moments that take your breath away.
Today was Convocation at Southwestern Adventist University. We do it every year. It’s a ceremony where students are officially welcomed into the school year, but more in a spiritual sense than in an academic sense. As one of the most senior (read old) professors on campus, I was in front of the line this year, and ended up sitting in the second pew, right in the center of the sanctuary. Just in front of the speaker, and also front in center for the University Singers and Strings. The opening number–I don’t have the program, so I can’t tell you what it was–was magnificent. And I was in the perfect place acoustically to enjoy it.
Years ago–1972-73 to be exact–I spent a year in Austria as a student. One of the habits I got into while I was there was learning to relax and meditate before church service. I would close my eyes, slow my breathing and my heart rate. It makes a world of difference. And that’s what I found myself doing today. For several minutes there today, I found myself not breathing, but rather living in a different universe, one inhabited by nothing but heavenly music. And awe reigned around me.
These days, people try constantly to be “awesome.” They try to excel in everything they do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if we really want “awesomeness” to be a byproduct of what we do and who we are, shouldn’t we take the time to experience it ourselves. When was the last time you experienced awe?
It starts with slowing down enough to find it.