Only Awesome

About 14 years ago, my brother, Dave, his five year old daughter, Betsy, and I were together in his van when the Rich Mullins’ song “Awesome God” came on the radio. Betsy sang along with great enthusiasm. I was impressed she knew the song so well. When it was over, I turned toward her and asked if she knew what “awesome” meant.

I can still remember her wide eyes, the use of her hands, her escalating voice, and the smile on her face as she did her best to think of synonyms for awesome:

“Well, Aunt Kathy, it’s like He’s big. No, . . . really big. And, He’s really, really good. He’s . . . He’s . . . He’s . . . AWESOME, Aunt Kathy, there’s no other word for God!”

I was thrilled she knew! She didn’t just like the song because of its rhythm and melody. She liked it because of the truth it communicated. Miss Chris, her teacher in the midweek church program she attended, had taught the children a biblical truth; not just a song. Praise God!

Since our conversation in Dave’s van, Betsy has only used the word “awesome” to describe God. (Now that she’s older, she occasionally uses it to describe things God does. But, it has to be obvious that it was God.) She wishes others would do the same and she’ll willingly correct you if you violate her principle. For example, if someone innocently comments that her grades, trumpet playing, or well-behaved dog are “awesome,” she glares and says, as only Betsy can, “God’s the only one who’s awesome!”

I’ll always remember the time when she stood near me after I spoke to parents in her church. Someone thanked me and said my presentation was “awesome.” Betsy confidently responded: “My Aunt Kathy is really good, but she’s not awesome. Only God is awesome!” She’s right. How can we sing the song with any credibility if everything is “awesome.” At least one adjective should be kept for God.

Most importantly, this understanding influences the way Betsy lives and behaves. She has a healthy respect for her awesome God. This understanding motivates her to be obedient. She is more aware of her sin and more eager to seek forgiveness. If Betsy had only learned the song and not the truth it included, she would not be living as she is. I praise God for teachers like Miss Chris who prioritize understanding over finishing the lesson or singing on key. I’m also grateful for teachers who motivate and teach students to apply truth.

By the way, can you imagine how Betsy greeted Miss Chris, seven years after learning the song and several years after not seeing her? Let me tell you. I was there to see it. Betsy ran from one side of the church auditorium to the other and gave her a long hug that was enthusiastically returned. Chris affected Betsy because the truth she taught affected Betsy in a powerful way.