“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
— Mary Oliver
Awe is one of our greatest gifts.
I’m not talking about the intimidating, even punishing “shock and awe” of one side against another. (From this view, sometimes a harsh “God fearing” or “fear and trembling” is how awe is interpreted, with the emphasis on fear, and power of one over another. If we “do the right things” and have God on our side, we can justify (or condemn) almost anything to ourselves and our tribe, as long as it fits our rigid worldview.
And I’m not talking about the way “awe” is commonly used in commercials (here the more typical word is “awesome”). Instead of “doing the right thing” for God, we “do the right thing” to directly feed the shallow desires of the “ego.” (Years ago, while serving as a chaplain at an addictions treatment center, I quickly learned a bit of common wisdom from the twelve-step community that e-g-o stands for “edging God out.”)
The point (or life-giving center) of awe is not fear (neither of God nor of not being one of the “powerful” consumers with such an “awesome” car). The Cambridge Dictionary defines awe as “a feeling of great respect, usually mixed with fear or surprise.” When we trust the depths of this kind of awe, the experience of humility can help us let the ego settle down enough for our awareness to be open to the wisdom of the soul.
Life is not all about us — especially not about our egos. A good and full life does not need us to be perfect (as in flawless). When we live into relationships of grace and trust, we discover the deeper kind of awesome power and are able to let go of our ego . . . at least enough to start listening to (and discerning) the Wisdom of the Indwelling Spirit that is always with us.
(I don’t know if you have had a chance to study the book “Gifts of the Dark Wood” this Lent. Important themes have been lifted each Sunday that are not just for consideration during Lent. They are part of a shift throughout our community to become increasingly intentional about being faithful disciples to the way of love that we know through Jesus Christ. And I am growing increasingly excited about our church community and these new possibilities for being present to God’s Presence that are emerging in and through us.)
Here is a blog I wrote last fall on “Ego Stories and Soul Stories.” It fits well here, so I recommend it for further reflection.
Or you might at least want to take a quick look at these contrasting columns of “ego stories” and “soul stories.” Though I’ve read it many times, I keep learning something new about myself every time I take a fresh look.
Also, here is a wonderful poem entitled “Wild Geese” read by the author, Mary Oliver, from an “On Being” podcast.
I still remember very well when I first heard it read almost 30 years ago. I think of it as especially for my ego to remind me to take a second breath and open up to awe and the windows of wonder.
Grace and peace on your journey,