The Loss of Awe – Part 4
by Hud McWilliams
While reading Psalm 86:11-12 this morning, I was impacted once again how central the “fear” of God is to the life of the believer. Fear—wonder and awe, sit at the core of our Truth and are represented by the necessary humility that comes from such a reverent posture to all of life.
I believe awe, wonder, and worship are the underlying, inherent nucleus of life with God in the space in which we live. Listen to David as he reflects on this perspective:
“Teach me Thy way LORD.
I will walk in Thy truth.
Unite my heart to fear Thy name.
[or give me an undivided heart]
I will give thanks to Thee, [or I will praise you]
O LORD my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Thy name forever.”
Note that five times in the above two verses David reminds himself of his Heavenly Father: Thy, Thy, Thy, Thee, Thy! We so easily replace Thy with me (ugh!) In so doing, we miss the wonder in all of creation.
Along this line and considering the subject of dialogue, which this series is about (see links below), I read an interesting element that pertains to the Psalmist’s passage.
We believe in Ortho [good] doctrine—Truth
We also believe in Ortho [good] praxis— application
We also believe in Ortho [good] pathos— passion/emotion
We also believe in Ortho [good] cardia—heart
As it says above, an undivided heart or a whole heart, a new heart, a good heart, a guarded heart, and a healed heart are necessary since it is pivotal to being able to live with awe and wonder.
What has worked against this time and time again and now presently in our current environment, is the loud distraction of fear and anger. These two emotional elements provide the separating force that isolates, divides, and alienates us from one another. Fear and anger act out of a divided heart! Together they prevent dialogue and promote separation. It is as if we can only critique the ‘others’ position and have no ability to actually critique all views including our own.
Fear and anger have played a central role in the explosion of conflict in our present context. Dwelling on fear and outrage is spiritually deforming. Fear and grace, or fear and gratitude, are incompatible.
There are moments, of course, when fear is an appropriate and necessary response, but there are risks when it becomes a constant presence. Fear and anger should presumably function as alarm systems—and an alarm is not supposed to stay perpetually on. It is not the onset of fear or anger that is most dangerous, but stoking it, cultivating it, and dwelling within it that distorts and deforms. A healed and whole, or undivided, heart mitigates against the divisive nature of fear and anger which motivates much of today’s conversation.
Our style becomes combative, attempting to prove the other wrong, when what lays a foundation for dialogue is a collaborative way that seeks to find common understanding. This is found in listening to understand and allows others’ thinking to improve our own. Often, we search for differences which are easier to find than those basic ingredients that act to form agreement coupled with understanding. When under extreme stress people are reduced to common bonds often of survival and dialogue comes from such space. Too often emphasis on differences serves to divide and separate.
A whole heart, undivided, provides a space where we are no longer afraid or at the mercy of our angry emotions, but rather able to insert a calm and quiet presence in all our relations that will enable us to wrestle with any subject in a life-giving manner.
We must be able to talk about all these things, no matter how fraught. How we approach each issue matters a great deal. Do we walk into the marketplace of ideas humbly? Do we even try to understand our most bitter opponents? Do we reject complexity in favor of false simplicity? Can we create a community based on a spirit of shared inquiry?
That’s my goal, to speak with you and not at you, to explain what I know and to learn what I can. Let’s sit together and then see where we stand.
Let’s ask for an undivided heart and stand in wonder and awe that God’s got this.
By His Grace,