Fat Tuesday. The good people of New Orleans have been getting their celebration on for weeks. Lent begins tomorrow along with some furtive “ought-to” resolutions and plans. Perhaps you have yours queued up. But if you want to start something that can lead to full out change let me offer one backed by God and research: start practicing awe.
That’s right: AWE.
Awe as in “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful.” Awe as in that which we experience when we are face-to-face with the eternal, the majestic, the glorious, the cosmic, the non-ending, always-beyond-us Mystery.
Neuroscientists have found our brains are created to need a break. Our brains literally need time to just look around without an agenda- without a point. Our brains need to just BE. – -without watching TV or playing video games or scrolling through the news feeds .
Just as there are some important mental connections that happen only when we sleep – there are some processes that only happen when we daydream, pause, go on a walk, etc.
Okay – so since these studies have come out – being the good, efficient capitalists that we are – researchers started asking the question of just what sort of downtime is “the best”? Is there a ranking system in terms of which ones are most beneficial?
Well, lo and behold there are differences in the quality of downtime. As Molly Rudd and her research team at Stanford learned.
They believe that when we enter the vastness of awe, our brains at a biological level try to make sense of this new information – this vastness – this open bigness changes us – – making us believe that we too are bigger, freer, more spacious.
People who experience awe report having more time to give, more expertise to offer, they feel like they can be more open to others.
Hmmm. These studies led me back to what Jesus kept pressing people to see all around them.
Jesus & his disciples are simply walking through Galilee but a crowd is pressing in around him. Luke says at the beginning of chapter 12, folks were “trampling on one another.” People had been were hollering questions, the Pharisees “opposed him fiercely besieging him with questions, waiting to catch him.”
In that frenzy, Jesus tells a few stories and then he abruptly stops: Whoa! Stop. Look at that lily why don’t you? Stop worrying about what you look like! Look at this.
Time out everybody. Lower the noise. No one was looking at the fields, they were concerned about their stuff. Worried about their inheritance, their jobs, the same stuff we worry about. They had forgotten to just stop. Be.
It’s Jesus with all this motion, flurry, sturm und drang, all around who realizes no one was really looking at the glory, the awe of God that was all around them, saying something to them.
This Lent – how about just stopping to practice awe. To begin your day greeting the glory all around you. To take a moment in the middle of that day to reflect on the gift of life and work. A moment in which you bless the good work of your hands and the hands of those around you – marveling that our work help heals the earth. And as darkness gathers, a moment to pause with those around you to consciously rest in the peace and stillness of the enfolding evening.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom, the Psalmist said.
To live knowingly and well, to acknowledge and receive the gift of each day. To be awestruck by the glory all around us. Now that would be a way to honor this Lent.