Radical Amazement

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi who influenced many through his writings and lectures.  In one of his works he wrote: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, to look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.  Everything is phenomenal, everything is incredible, to be spiritual is to be constantly amazed.” I think we can all learn from Heschel’s words.  The goal he proposes is certainly a worthy one.  It is also a goal achievable, considering the remarkable world we are blessed to live in.  For me, God’s Creation is a constant source of amazement.  This is true in a number of different way but here I’ll simply identify three.

To begin with, I am constantly amazed at the beauty we find in nature.  The wise writer of Ecclesiastes was on target when he said God has made everything beautiful in its time (3:11).  For those with eyes to see there is beauty everywhere.  There is beauty in the flowers, the trees, the rocks, the clouds, the mountains, the deserts, and the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world.  There is beauty is the sun, moon and stars.  There is beauty in the people I encounter each and every day.  I am constantly amazed at the beauty God has placed before (and within) us.

Second, I am amazed at the power of nature.  Many examples come to mind.  I think of the majestic valleys carved by glaciers in the Sierra Nevada.  I think of some of the great waterfalls I’ve viewed.  I think of Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee that was created by an earthquake in the early 1800s, an earthquake so large it caused the Mississippi River flow backwards!  I think also of the destruction I saw earlier this week caused by a tornado that came through eastern Kentucky a couple of weeks ago.  I was amazed to see not only the damage done to homes and places of business, but to the trees and hillsides in the area as well.  On a regular basis I am amazed by the power of nature.

The third thing about God’s Creation that constantly amazes me is its variety.  I know I’ve written about this before but it is mindboggling to think of the many different varieties of plant and animal species that exists in our world.  This has been one of the great blessings of all the traveling I’ve gotten to do over the years.  I have been introduced to so many things I would never have seen had I not visited other parts of our country and the world.  Even so, there is plenty of variety right where I live to keep me amazed for years to come.  I truly am amazed at the infinite variety found in God’s Creation.

If, as Heschel suggests, “to be spiritual is to be constantly amazed,” then God did us all a great service when He created the world like He did.  In the beauty, power and variety we find plenty to make and keep us spiritual.  In these there is plenty to keep us constantly moving in God’s direction.  For all of this I can only say, “Thank you, Lord.”


(I took the top picture at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  The flower image I took here at my home.  I took the image showing tornado damage near Salyersville two days ago.  I photographed the prairie dog in Wyoming.)