Yesterday Ezekiel 1:15-2:2 haunted me, the imagery and beauty tinged everything I did, everywhere I went, and everything I said. So much so that this morning I felt like I was in mourning, mourning for the loss of awe.
I could hear voices questioning, voices of people I know asking me what Ezekiel’s vision meant? Why beryl wheels? How can something be covered in eyes? What are the creatures? Was Ezekiel on something? Surely Ezekiel didn’t really see that? That’s all very well but what does the passage really mean? Now I am not saying that exploring these questions is a bad thing to do, however I do think that deconstructing this passage to it’s bare bones is to destroy it.
Increasingly the awe is being removed from religion, I am not certain that is always a good thing. Yes we should question; yes we should demystify what we do and why we do it; yes we should make our language understandable and accessible; yes we should engage with today’s society and culture; but I do not believe we should do it at the cost of awe.
awe: noun – 1. overwhelming wonder, admiration, respect, or dread. 2. (archaic) power to inspire fear or reverence. verb – 3. tr to inspire with reverence or dread.
Collins English Dictionary
Awe is that thing which despite any dictionary definition can not be explained, it is a feeling from deep within, it speaks to the primordial within us all. Something which pulls us from both beyond and within to a place which we can not fully explain only experience. It calls us to acknowledge that we are not the center of the universe and maybe that is the crux of why awe has become so unfashionable in today’s world. With regard to awe it doesn’t matter why beryl, what creatures, how many eyes, all that matters is that the sight was so powerful, so extraordinary, so beautiful, so well …. awesome, that it caused Ezekiel to fall down on his face. It instilled in him a sense of absolute trust that his questions – for I am sure he had them – didn’t matter. Oh I know it is unpopular but it is only when we become as little children, when we we put aside our need for the rational, for the explanations, and simply bathe in the awesome nature of God that we can be freed to do and be what God wants of us, rather than what we want from God.
When the modern questioning mind meets awe, awe should be allowed to reign and not dismissed as something emotional and inconsequential because it can not be explained or rationalised.