The Experience of Awe

I recently posted an entry from “Jim’s Online Journal,” which I used to share with a few close friends and family members in the days before blogging became so popular (by the way, I love the quote someone shared with me recently about blogging: “Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”  True!).  But here’s another excerpt from that old journal that still seems fresh.  I hope you will enjoy it.


Thursday, July 30, 1998

Spirituality professor Glenn Hinson says that “the appropriate response to God is this”:  and then he lets his mouth fall open with an audible “plop” and stands in front of his class  for a full sixty seconds while his students first laugh and then begin to squirm uncomfortably before such a sustained expression of awe.

Today, two full days after my return from a backpacking trip to Montana’s awe-inspiring Bob Marshall Wilderness, my jaws are still sore from rounding all those bends in the trail and having my mouth fall open again and again.  What a place!  What breathtaking beauty!  In the same way I felt helpless to cram all that glory into a snapshot as I took pictures, I feel helpless to describe the experience in words, but here are a few black and white, monotone memories of a technicolor, surround-sound trip:

Day 2:  Trudging up endless switchbacks and through a dense pine forest to emerge, at last, by the edge of an alpine lake, its clear blue-green waters overshadowed by a craggy peak, flanked with snow, towering 3,000 feet above the surface of the lake.

Day 3:  Leaving my backpack behind and climbing some of the smaller peaks around Koessler Lake.  Scrambling up a near-vertical face and thrusting my arms into the air in a gesture of triumph at the peak.  Looking over the North edge of that peak at a sheer cliff wall dropping 2,000 feet into Lick Lake.  Climbing down and entering a broad, flat alpine meadow, dotted with red, blue, yellow, and white wildflowers, bursting into a baritone rendition of “The Sound of Music.”  Leaning back into the shade of a huge boulder, eating beef jerky and sipping mountain spring water, feeling my soul nourished.

Day 5:  Swimming in the cool, clear water of a secluded mountain lake.  Sitting on a warm, flat rock in the sunshine to dry off afterward.  Listening to the sound of water falling in fat drops from my elbows and fingertips and hearing absolutely nothing else.  Silence.  Silence.  Ahhhh!

There is, of course, much more to tell, but let me leave you with the image of my eyes fixed on Montana, my mouth hanging open in awe.  To quote William Willimon:  “God is large, and prickly, and . . . large.”