The Double Edged Sword of Awe

geiserWe are all born with a desire for religious experience. God made us this way. Each of us has had experiences in which the only description of our emotions is awe. These are intimate moments between you and God, a person, or a even location or event. While God intended for this awe to be for Him, our humanity doesn’t reserve them to Him exclusively. It’s a human response of deep connectedness. Most often there is a build-up and anticipation to the experience. You want it to happen so bad, it finally does, and the experience overwhelms you because it is better than you’d imagined.

Here are some awe experiences people mention as the highlights of their lives.

– Seeing a bear in the wild.

– Liftoff of the space shuttle.

– Sexual intimacy

tiger_17_425x600– Hitting the winning basket, scoring the winning touchdown, nailing the winning putt.

– Exploring a beautiful coastline in Ireland.

– Worshipping with thousands of believers at a conference.

– Meeting God for the first time at a retreat.

– Starting your own business and earning your first dollar.

Most often, these are intensely personal moments of awe. The experience defies description and is often too intimate to even talk about. Even during the moment your emotions run high.

This is the first edge to the sword. It’s a good edge. The pursuit of this high and the after effects/remembrance of this high produce tremendous energy for people. This religious experience forms a deep bond between that individual and that event, object, or person. It is something they shared that was intimate and powerful.

Industries exist to help people pursue this experience, don’t they? We seek the awe-inspiring moment and wise capitalists provide tours of Ireland and Yellowstone. Religious events build anticipation for these moments knowing that they will draw thousands of seekers. How many clubs, bars, and dance clubs exist for the sole purpose of a common meeting ground for people seeking a sexual experience? On and on.

But that sword has a second, more dangerous edge to it, doesn’t it? Once you have this religious experience you seek to have it again. I mean, if the high of that moment… seeing the bear… crossing the rope bridge to a tiny island… having a killer day with a new business… sinking the putt to win the big tournament… it will never be the same as the first time.

In fact, many industries sustain because they know there will always be people who are seeking the second experience. They are in the exhilaration/disappointment business. They know that a weery businessman will lay down tens of thousands of dollars to go on tours of Ireland again. And then when he doesn’t find what he is looking for he will go to Scotland, Iceland, and the Gallapogos. The sex industry exists because people are seeking a more amazing sexual experience than “that amazing time.” Parents will relentlessly drive their children into sports in hopes that one day their kid will have the amazing experience they did of scoring a touchdown to win the big game. Certainly, many youth groups thrive because teenagers are seeking to repeat an intense religious experience they had at a retreat.  Get-rich-quick schemes work because people remember that one time when they made easy money and they want it to happen again.

The truth is this. The secret is this. The learning point is this. Once you have that amazing moment, don’t try to repeat it. It will never be the same the second time. When you take someone back to that spot… it’ll be awesome for them… but a let-down for you. If you can’t handle that let-down, just let that awesome one-time experience live in your memory.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

1 comment

  1. that’s a bit pessimistic..
    I can honestly say that this is not always the case… There are places that you can go, experiences you can have that will repeat itself..

    And in some cases if you are wise to the experience it is not about it being a let down but to be a guide for others to feel what you feel.
    When I say this, I don’t mean pushing them to that point, because you shouldn’t force the hand.
    But instead let them find their own way and you be there to be their guide. And be there to hold them when they come up out of the waters..

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