Have we lost our sense of awe and wonder? In some ways, I think we have. Part of it has to do with the fluidity of word definitions. I’m old enough to remember when the word “awesome” became a replacement for the slang word “cool.” For years now “awesome” has described everything from a great play in sports to a new outfit to a kindergartener’s simple drawing. In fact, yesterday I saw a preschooler wearing a shirt that said “everything is awesome.” When everything is awesome, we can easily forget the word originally meant “an overwhelming feeling of reverence and fear produced by that which is grand, sublime, and extremely powerful.”
But it is more than just language, it’s our culture. You see, the rapidly advancing technology which did indeed awe us a few years ago is now commonplace. The internet has put massive amounts of information literally at our fingertips. And the computer generated imagery used in movies these days leaves almost nothing for our own imaginations to envision. Children today have grown up in this techno-savvy world.
So what does this mean for those of us who long to see children experience a wonder and an awe of the God who created them? How can we possibly intrigue them with an ancient story when we have no hope of keeping up with the technology that changes almost daily? How do recitations of the biblical miracles stack up against the latest video game?
When I start asking those questions, how grateful I am when the Lord reminds me that the same two things that caused people of the Old and New Testaments to fall on their faces in fearful reverence are the same two things that instill awe and wonder in us today! What are these two things? The glory of God viewed in stark contrast to our fallen, sinful human nature.
My favorite example of this is found in Isaiah chapter 6. The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of God’s glory that filled the temple with smoke and shook the foundations of its thresholds. As Isaiah encountered the holiness of God in such a dramatic fashion, the depth of his own sin became painfully obvious – undeniable even. Filled with AWE and reverence, Isaiah could do nothing but exclaim, “I am undone!” And then, the WONDER of God’s grace was experienced as a seraph flew to Isaiah and said, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah could respond with no other words but these, “Here I am! Send me.”
Of course, mere mortals obviously cannot control if, when, or how this revelation will occur. Only God’s Spirit can make Himself known in such a way. Therefore, it is futile to think that bigger bells and louder whistles are the key to generating authentic Christian faith. Engaging the culture is certainly important, but humble prayers are imperative.
The Bible makes it clear that God inhabits the praises of His people. Therefore, God’s Spirit sometimes breaks out in the middle of a worshipping, faithful community in ways not otherwise available to us. The book of Acts is filled with examples of this. Here’s one: “And they (the Christians) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with AWE.” And as these Christ followers attended the temple, met in one another’s homes, and praised God, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 43, 47). Or consider this example: as Peter and John continued to pray regularly in the temple, God worked through them to heal a man crippled from birth. The result? People were filled with WONDER and amazement! (Acts 3:1-10)
God’s Spirit moves within the gathered faithful in a way that dispels doubt and discouragement. That is why we work so hard at Central to provide a children’s Sunday School hour and midweek small groups. Children today may be hard to impress; they may feel they’ve seen it all; they may even think the Bible is boring. But when vibrant believers share THE story, when Christ followers share their own AWE of God, when companions on the spiritual journey confess their own sin and WONDER at God’s amazing grace, His Spirit moves. And in those sacred moments, those who serve in Children’s Ministry experience the AWE and WONDER of children manifested through their countenance, their prayers, and their questions. When God graciously grants us these glimpses of eternity, may we never boast in ourselves, but always give Him all the praise and all the glory forevermore. Amen.
Director of Children’s Ministries