Awe of Averages

butterfly with insects

awe[1] (noun) an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.

It is widely understood that the more common an experience or observation, the less special it feels. Somehow, simply by our daily awareness of something, it becomes regular. I have found myself wondering about this lately, as my understanding of “typical” has tipped upside down. It is now normal to discuss the “new normal.” Whatever that is. In fact, that phrase comes up so often I roll my eyes with a kind of disgusted boredom every time I hear it.

As I have wondered about what makes up the ordinariness of life, I have also been struck by the glory of its simplicity. Is there a chance that we have become so accustomed to the eminence of creation that we have stopped seeing the actual miracles that surround us? Is it possible that God has designed a world that inspires such daily awe, it has become commonplace? We have lost our ability to celebrate natural phenomenon and have instead become bored by it. Minute by minute we may come across some new revelation; yet, we are too focused on where we go next, our plans, our designs, that we miss God’s grandeur right in front of our nose.

But that was then. This is now. Now, plans don’t hold such jurisdiction over our daily lives. Now, we are reconfiguring what is normal to us. Now, we are open to revelations of a divine nature, perhaps discovered in the smallest, most common, and quiet moments of our lives.

Julian of Norwich has been on my mind for precisely this reason. She was a mystic from the late 14th century, best known for writing Revelations of Divine Love. These showings came to her as she suffered an illness and lay upon what she thought was her deathbed. Her transcriptions serve as a gift to all of us struck by uncertainty and anxiety about what the future holds. I also believe they are a gift to us as we reconsider the ordinary, rediscover awe, and search for meaning in our lives.

One of the most famous revelations came to her in the form of a simple hazelnut.

And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered generally thus, 'It is all that is made.' I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God (Colledge, 1977).

Julian of Norwich

Guided by the words of Julian, we are reassured that all of life comes forth from the love of God. This love courses through everything, no matter how great or small. Julian continues in her description, sharing three distinct properties contained in this single hazelnut, “In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it (Colledge, 1977).”

What if, in this new normal, we let this revelation by Julian shape our world view? What if, instead of overlooking and stepping around the little things in life, we gazed upon them with this confession of faith, “God made this. God loves this. God keeps this.” What if, instead of glancing at the mirror, being overwhelmed by the news, or staring at the faces on a zoom call, we thought, “God made you. God loves you. God keeps you.” How would this change our understanding of the ordinary? How would this change our relationship to what is average? In what ways would the love of God infuse what and how we see?

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? …But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34 (NRSV)

Let us pray...

No matter what we face each day, no matter what unknowns lie ahead of us, may these words of Julian and Jesus give us peace in each moment. May we notice the miracles that surround us and may we trust God’s love to keep and care for us through it all. Amen.

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awe

*Quotes are from this book: Julian of Norwich: Showings

Casey Cross

Casey Cross

Young Disciples Director
Hope Lutheran Church
Eagle, ID

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mary Braudrick

    Thank you for this “new”, beautiful perspective.

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