Some words in our culture are wildly overused. At the moment I am thinking of the words "amazing" and "awesome."
I confess that I am a big fan of the TV show Fixer Upper. I love to watch what Chip and Joanna can do with homes that are in need of repair and restoration, some of which, in fact, look like the only reasonable solution would be to bulldoze them. Instead, they go in and begin to work their magic, and at the end of the episode those fixer uppers have been turned into virtual showplaces. However, I have a little game that I play at the conclusion of each show. Every week the last five minutes are called "the reveal." That's when the couple purchasing the home is walked through to see how it looks after it has been remodeled. My game is to count the number of times the couple uses the words "amazing" and "awesome.” I always stage a little contest to see which word wins. One recent Tuesday night in the last five minutes of the program the couple seeing their new house used those two words a total of fourteen times. That particular night "amazing" defeated "awesome" by a score of ten usages to four. Sometimes those results are reversed. But you can count on it, every week in the last five minutes of Fixer Upper those two words are thrown around as frequently as we might hear “a,” “and,” or “the.” I often wonder how hard it is to find some other word, at least once in a while – something like “great” or “beautiful” or “remarkable” or “outstanding” or “stunning.” Does everything nowadays have to be “amazing” or “awesome”?
To “amaze” is to cause sudden wonder. “Awe” is an overwhelming feeling of reverence produced by something grand or extremely powerful. Hey, I love watching Chip and Joanna, but how many fireplace mantles cause wonder down deep in the soul? And how many window boxes give one an overwhelming feeling of reverence? Can we honestly say, “Man, that chili dog was amazing”? Can we sincerely say, “Wow, that silk tie (or dress) is awesome”? Don’t we sometimes throw phrases around too lightly, phrases that should be reserved for a sense of wonder when standing in the presence of something grand?
The word “awe” is used thirty-two times in the Bible, and “amazing” only five times. Always they either refer to virtually unutterable respect for the works of God’s hands or fear when standing in God’s presence. For example, there is a story in Mark’s gospel where it says the villagers “came to Jesus, (and) they beheld the demoniac quietly seated, clothed and of sane mind, the man who had had the legion; and they were awe-stricken....” Or consider the words of Joshua to the people of Israel: "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you....” Those words were reserved for a power worthy of them – the power of God (of Jesus) to do things that we, of our own strength, cannot do.
Don’t get me wrong. I use those two words. But, I am trying not to use them as often or as cavalierly as contemporary culture does. I don’t want to dumb down phrases that have spiritually insightful or inspiring properties. Maybe genuine “awe” should be reserved for something beyond the norm, beyond our mortal powers to accomplish. Maybe we should be “amazed” by what God does. In fact, if we ever lose that sense of absolute wonder when considering the works of the Divine, then our faith needs a jump start. Some things are good, beautiful, outstanding, or extraordinary. Some other things are, in fact, godly, and those things are the ones that are truly amazing. There’s a contemporary hymn that says it well: “Our God Is An Awesome God.”