NOTEworthy July 11

My God is so High

arr. Moses Hogan

I write this week from our church’s home away from home, Montreat, where I am attending my first ever Presbyterian Association of Musicians Conference. So far, the experience has been so many things – reveling in the beauty of the mountains, meeting new people, listening to impassioned preaching and thoughtful lectures – a bit about copyright law that is probably interesting ONLY to me – and lots and lots of great music.

Despite the great variety of experiences I am having here, I think it all sums up quite fittingly and succinctly in a word: Awe.

…and Awe has often been a complicated emotion for me.

Certain types of awe are easy for me to metabolize spiritually – the beauty of the mountains, the wonder of the ocean, the music of one of the masters. But other types of awe can lead me down a….less awe-some path.


I think there is an inherent relationship between awe and envy – two sides of the same coin.

For better and for worse, I am a naturally competitive person. On the “For worse” side of things, this means that sometimes when I am confronted with a peer that I perceive as more successful than me, what should manifest in me as awe instead realizes itself in me as envy. I want to be the best at what I do, and if this peer of mine is thriving in a way I perceive to be “ahead of me,” in whatever strange and specific race that I made up in my mind, it can really bug me.

Before I go any further, let me be clear: I know this is unhealthy, and I am working on it. That being said, I think it is important to speak honestly about my own shortcomings, so that some of you might recognize this in yourselves and feel a little less alone with your inner imperfections.

Back to the envy – sometimes my response to someone impressive is to try to find chink in their armor. I compare myself in different ways, searching for another made-up race that I might win to salvage my dignity.

Other times, I will wallow in self-pity, wondering what I could have done differently to end up less mediocre in comparison.

However, not only are these intrusive thoughts joy-stealing and selfish, envy like this is completely antithetical to awe!!

And awe is perhaps one of the most wondrous Christian emotions!!

I can stand in awe of the cosmos, the intricacies of life, the wonder of the arts, so why is it so much harder to stand in awe at the beauty God is using my neighbor to create?

Because of the races I made up in my head.

Because of the races we all make up in our heads. (That’s right. I know you do it, too.)

Funny enough, all it takes to run those races “as if to win the prize” like Paul said (1 Cor 9:24) is for us to live in awe. To take that which inspires envy within us and channel it instead to inspire good work. To allow that which is admirable in others to be a part of that goal for which we strive.

There is not a limited supply of goodness in the world. We are made less successful by our neighbors’ success.

In fact, if we let it, the success of our neighbor can and should lift us with them. If we take that which is beautiful and wonderful and awesome in those around us and celebrate it, work towards it in ourselves, we more fully form that goal for which we race in our minds.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 12:14-16a

O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary.
The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people.
Blessed be God!
Psalm 68:35

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church