When we get so angry it’s hard to function, I have a solution. It comes down to one word: awe!
When was the last time you were struck with awe? This past Sunday, I took our two daughters to the Atlanta Greek Festival. I had been to Greek Festivals before while in Athens…Georgia, as a Sigma Chi. This one was held at the Cathedral of the Annunciation. I tried to introduce the girls to cuts of lamb and the sweet tastes of baklava. They opted for chicken and a $6 ice-cream cone.
I was happy that I did have the opportunity to take them inside the Cathedral. Just outside the sanctuary, we noticed a sacred space where people had lit candles and placed them in a container of sand. My daughters must have thought it was a big birthday cake because I had to hopscotch around two people to keep them from blowing them out. I was reluctant to head inside the sanctuary. They were displaying an original Greek Icon of the Virgin Mary. There were lines of people on both sides waiting to bow in reverence. I could only imagine what my daughters might do when it was their turn.
I chanced it. As we walked inside, I couldn’t help but look heavenward. There it was: a majestic rendering of Jesus pieced together with mosaic tiles. It covered the entire ceiling. I looked over at my daughters. For the first time all night, they were speechless. As they gazed upward, they were wrapped in the majesty of this image unable to be distracted by anything else. I could see awe in their eyes. Where we do find the space in our lives to experience awe?
I find that people today are angrier than we’ve ever been. We are angry at differing opinions. We are angry at the insults people lob at us.
In all candidness I have found myself angry the last couple of years over the issues of race in our country. I’m the first to admit I haven’t done enough in my own areas of influence to advocate for the fair and just treatment of African Americans in our society. I don’t understand how Caucasian/White people like me can’t empathize more with how hard it’s been and continues to be for African Americans in our country. I’m getting angry typing about it.
Last year, when there was a white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Virginia, I made a comment that Christians can never support this type of behavior. It’s our Christian witness to speak out against these forms of racism. I was surprised by how much resistance I received.
If I’m being true to myself, I got to tell you I have a hard time still going to Stone Mountain. I love that place. I have cherished memories there. But each time I walk up the side of that mountain, I can’t understand how our great state still lets Confederate Flags fly. I grew up in Jackson, GA. I witnessed the pain and hardships that my African American friends experienced that I will never know. Not ever! Ever!
I’m trying to be more empathetic with people who might be angered by such comments. I admit it. I have had a pretty easy life growing up as an upper-middle class kid. My parents paid my way to college, my fraternity dues, my housing. I have had it pretty good. And I’m grateful. But that means I don’t know the bumps and bruises of blue-collar life and some of the feelings of displacement in a rapidly changing world. God knows I need more empathy and understanding. I confess how judgmental I can be.
I don’t want to be consumed by anger. It’s deadly and has put me squarely at odds with people I love. It makes enemies out of us! And I want peace and lots of it to spread around. In this coming Sunday’s scripture, we are looking at a passage from Psalm 8. The Psalmist took time to marvel in the majesty and awe of creation. The Psalmist sings,
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet all sheep and oxen,and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
The Psalmist looks upon creation and nurtures adoration. Maybe in this season we need to nurture more time in the beauty of creation for God to repair our own brokenness. Awe can bring us out of the suffocating places of anger and into the realm of something more holy, more beautiful. And it’s only through this repair work that we can see the world rightly again.
I remember one of my previous neighbors. I would look outside my window into his yard. I would see him and his son peering through a telescope at the stars. I thought to myself, “I wish I had time for this.” I still have that wish.
We need some time to nurture awe into our lives. Watch a sunset. Gaze at stars. Get lost in a work of art. My hope is we can see that each of us has a part, broken as we are, in God’s mosaic.
This Sunday, we’re going to celebrate World Communion Sunday. We are celebrating the unity we find in Jesus Christ as we partake of the holy food of communion. Yes, there are differences in the Christian tradition. We are Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox just to name a few. My hope is that as we lift the bread, we might more fully realize the unity we share as God’s beloved children. My hope is we might be able for a day, even for a second to see beyond the difference and stand in awe of our unique kinship as brothers and sisters in Christ.