This past Friday, I headed up to the north Georgia mountains to celebrate my good friend Sam Heys turning the big 40. We were roommates in college at UGA and by God’s good grace we have reconnected in Atlanta. We live just a few miles from each other.
We met up in Candler Park and picked up one of his friends. I didn’t know him, but he was pleasant and new and not connected to church life. I love our church and the people in it. But it’s nice to get away from having to be ‘on’ for a day or two.
We were heading up to the Cohutta wilderness near the Tennessee line. On the ride up, I was catching up with Sam. For some reason, I went on and on about my favorite BBQ places in Atlanta.
“Sam, I got to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of Fox Brothers. Their meats are too fatty. Their brisket was full of gristle. And when we did start eating brisket in the south? Give me a slab of pork ribs from DBA any day. They’re the best BBQ in town.”
After 10 minutes of this, Sam gently ask, “So Roger, how long have you been a vegetarian?”
“Oh, about 10 years now.”
I felt like a pig. Roger was gracious and even said, “Oh, I don’t make a big deal of it. I don’t try to make converts of people. My style has always been just to express my beliefs by example without making a big fuss.”
After a few moments I said, “Well, I guess the good thing for me is that if we run out of food on our trip, I won’t have to worry about you eating me.”
“That’s good. I’ll have to use that one,” said Roger.
I’m sure there’s a sermon in Roger’s words about leading morally through one’s example.
We started hiking around 4pm and logged four miles with several river crossings on the Jack’s River Trail before finding camp. The river is usually running fast and high enough to make for tough crossings. But the late summer in Georgia had seen little rain and the river felt more like a creek with knee high water on occasions.
After a meal of Ramon bombs (Ramon noodles with potato flakes added in), we sat around and shared stories. There were six of us in total. Besides the one crank radio to pick up the UGA/Notre Dame game, we had no reason for electronics. One friend made the comment, “You know it’s so good we’re out here talking and there’s not one phone!” It was true. We had no cell coverage for the whole trip.
After the conversation died down along with the fire, I walked down to the river and happened to looked up. For the first time in a while, I noticed the stars and it felt like I was back at my summer camp as a teenager where many nights I would leave the cabin and lay down on the ground and gaze.
There was no light pollution, no car horns. A billion stars shined onto edges of the trees. And the sparkle of moonlight flowed down the river. Awe is a good word. For that’s what I felt. Awe at the handiwork and artistry of God.
Whether I realized it or not, I needed a moment of awe and to be lifted out of screens and emails. I need to realized how incredibly unimportant I felt in the midst of grandeur and how little my problems can seem in the midst of the vastness of God.
The Psalmist once declared, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established what are human beings that you are mindful of them?” (Psalm 8:3,4).
I think we’ve all known that pleasure of feeling small in the vastness of God. Those moments surprise us and lift us out of ourselves into a new place.
I have good friends from my hometown who often tell me they love to go deer hunting. It’s usually not to kill a deer, but to sit in nature and watch it come alive. My new friend Roger probably wouldn’t like the hunting part, but I think we all get the need to be in nature.
How might we learn nurture awe into our lives? In the midst of the pressure to produce, to parent, to lead, a little awe would do us some good.