“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.”
–Psalm 96:11, NIV
My family and I recently visited a beautiful North Carolina beach. Almost every day of our visit, we spent time walking in the ocean, or simply sitting on the sand, watching the waves play.
Staring out at sky and water, it’s easy to see why the ancients viewed the world as a kind of cosmic snow globe. On the coast, with no forests or hills to obscure it, the sky is a vast dome. It rises out of the sea and arches far, far above our heads before descending like a backdrop to the mainland.
In fact, looking down the beach to either side, you seem to see the point at which sky, sea, and land meet. And suddenly, Narnia and Middle-earth don’t feel so far away.
The sea, too, is vast. Staring out at the horizon from an East Coast island shore, you realize suddenly that the next piece of dry land eastward is probably the next continent. And the waves breaking in front of you are only a fringe of the great watery blanket covering over two-thirds of the earth’s surface. Only the fingers of a vast, intricate, powerful thing living between our shores.
I think it’s this mystical vastness that draws us to the sea. It’s so big, so powerful, so full of life that few of us will ever see except in movies or aquariums. It can be terrifying and destructive, exciting and playful, or gentle and calming. It inspires awe.
Our daily lives are often short on awe. It’s not the first thing you feel when you’re sitting in a cubicle, driving down the interstate, standing at a checkout, or scrolling through text messages.
So we seek out places like the ocean. Vast, wild, beautiful places that arouse both curiosity and respect, adventurousness and caution, fear and admiration. Places we can enjoy, challenge, and study, but never fully control or understand.
Places that remind us how small we are, and how big God is.
Awe is a natural response to God and His works. Like the ocean, He is both mighty and gentle, wild and constant, lofty and intimate. When we witness His power and meditate on His character, we can’t help but marvel at even the smallest of His wonders.
Awe of God is considered by the writer of Proverbs to be “the beginning of wisdom“. Awe gives us a healthy perspective of our relation to God and His world. It leads us to praise and worship Him, regardless of our personal circumstances. It causes us to temporarily forget ourselves and instead focus on our Maker. It creates humility, and even peace as we acknowledge God’s authority and ability to accomplish what’s best for His creation.
Awe doesn’t answer all our questions, or demand answers. It simply beholds, and marvels, and rejoices in what and Whom it sees.
It invites us to join the rest of the universe in praising and celebrating our Creator. To “be still” in worshipful reflection like the gentle wavelets at our feet. Or to shout joyfully with the far-out breakers: “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”
What steps you can take in your everyday life to intentionally focus on and celebrate the wonders of God? What in your life or the world around you can you praise Him for?