Being Overwhelmed

So, you will have noticed that it has been a while since my last post/epistle…my apologies, as I know that I committed to keeping these up while I was on sabbatical. I don’t have a good reason or excuse, just that I find myself lacking any sense of time.

The days in Scotland flowed. You know that feeling where you are completely engrossed in doing something and as a result time flies by? That was my 3.5 weeks in Scotland. It was both delightful, as well as disorienting. I would find myself asking others what day it was, only to discover it was Sunday and I had missed writing a post.

Now this isn’t just an extended explanation, but a desire for us all. I think we all need time like this. Times where time fades away and you are only left with being completely absorbed in the moment. For me, this has brought on a kind of feeling of being overwhelmed or in awe. I mean this in the very best of ways. I just feel like I am constantly taking so much in that I can’t really focus on the concerns of what next, the worries about the past, but I am just focused on what is happening around me and trying to let as much in as possible. For me, that is awe inducing. It is that feeling of being in what you know to be is sacred space. It is that feeling of knowing that God is very near.

In the Hebrew parts of the Bible, the phrase we often come across is, “fear of the Lord,” including the oft quoted and more often misunderstood sentiment from proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” Now, many see this and shy away thinking this has something to do with a fear of power or might of God. It is easy to see this as a kind of threat–approach God with fear and trembling, or God is going to smite you. It truly is unfortunate that English is not as poetic as Hebrew. Hebrew has many different ways of expressing different types of fear. When referencing God, the words used are yirat or pahad neither of which imply threat or power, but are much more akin to awe or being overwhelmed. I think the reality being described is this sense of being completely overwhelmed that I have been living in for the last several weeks. So why might this be the beginning of wisdom? I think it is because this feeling comes with an inherent sense of humility and curiosity. It is a realization that there is so much more to learn than can ever be known. The constant reminder that there are so many people in this world and their reality is so different from your own (and in my case I am in another English speaking country, yet everything here is still completely foreign!). You can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and awe. It is easy to feel close to God in the midst of this.

So my question to you is, when do you experience this feeling? I think this is a completely essential feeling for the spiritual life. I also think that this feeling can be hard to attain unless you are willing to take some risks and get into territory where you are uncomfortable. I think you have to feel a little in over your head in order to find this kind of awe.

By the way, the image attached to this blog post (if you are reading this in the epistle, go check the church website and click on the Holytroublemakers tab to see the picture) is the Old Library at Trinity college Dublin. It is the largest single hall library in all of Europe and contains every volume written in the British Isles. Talk about Being overwhelmed and in awe!

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