Where Do You Get Your Awe?

Deborah Sloan
6 min readDec 13, 2023


Image By Author - Sunrise

I decided I wouldn’t mention him this week. I’ve had a few comments about how much he features, and I’m worried it might look like I’m besotted or something. I could be giving the impression that he’s the centre of my universe, or that I can’t function if I’m not staring into his eyes. Although there has been at least one incident when not holding his hand got me smacked by a kerb. And he does like to refer to himself as my carer. Anyway, if things continue the way they’ve been going, he could end up with an inflated title like ‘favourite hubby’ or ‘main man’ or how about ‘hubs’? But the problem is I’ve had a couple of massive insights recently and they seem to involve him so bear with me until I get those out of my system and then we’ll try to park him. If you made it through my meltdown¹, you may have noted that in my twenty years of motherhood, I had mainly wished that I wasn’t doing it on my own. I discovered that my two decades of resentment were never about having access to an equally successful career or achieving some sort of mythical potential. I just had this notion of us being in the business of raising children together, like solidly, twenty-four hours a day. I just wanted a companion for the road.

When he was somewhere mid-flight on the last Tuesday in November and I was missing him, I recorded an episode for a podcast. I may or may not share the results although maybe it has a massive Spotify following and I won’t need to do anything. But I do think giving out the link will depend on what exactly I said and whether it is likely to get me in any trouble. I may also have hit the microphone once or twice. I had no idea I was such an enthusiastic hand-gesturer. I was under no illusions that I was there because I was an expert. I’d been invited solely on the basis of my ignorance. They needed an average woman from the pews, they said, not someone too deep so that me, the priest, and the Presbyterian could talk about an average woman from the pews’ understanding of prayer. I said I was very good at supplication, especially when it came with a sense of urgency. I was thinking of when I lost a child once in Sainsburys or when the plane did that go-around thing. I could do confession. I just said sorry a lot for everything I’ve ever done. Thankfulness was pretty easy and usually came naturally once the sense of urgency had passed and we’d landed. I even had a marvellous catch-all prayer for most of my childhood — please look after my mum, my dad, my sister, my teacher, my friends, the sick, the lonely and those who don’t have any food. But I found the whole adoration thing a bit much. Although I deal in words, I struggle with forming sentences about God’s awesomeness with my eyes closed. When you veer towards cynicism or realism, it’s hard to do gush. “Do you mean you don’t tell your husband how amazing he is?” said the Presbyterian. “No,” I said. And that was the end of that.

But can I tell you about that thing he does with roast potatoes.

I’ve started to look forward to it. It’s a Sunday around 5pm. I’m settled in my corner of the sofa with a book which isn’t making me skip paragraphs or fall asleep. The dog is curled into me. I may have a glass of wine. The fire is on. I’ve lit the candles. The pork is crackling in the oven. The cauliflower cheese is bubbling. “They’re not quite ready yet,” he’ll say as he hands me a couple of crispy bits. He tells me they’re hot, burny. He’ll come back with a bit of meat. Not too long ago, I got two brussels sprouts tossed in a little pancetta. “Just a preview,” he said. There was a feeling I couldn’t describe. I wanted to call it awe but that wasn’t what the dictionary said awe was. Apparently, awe was a mix of feelings, a sort of blend of reverence, fear and wonder. It was caused by something majestic, sublime or sacred. “They gazed in awe at the diamonds”. “They were in awe of the Grand Canyon”. The examples were terrible. It didn’t help that awesome, which originally meant ‘inspiring awe’ is now being widely used as a synonym for excellent.

And then, in one of those daily emails that pops into my inbox, I read.

“Awe is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding, insight into a meaning greater than ourselves. The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe”².

I decided I’d call it awe anyway, that situation with the roast potatoes, because I felt something like wonder or the beginning of wisdom. It had meaning.

Even though I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be asking them questions on their podcast, I asked the Presbyterian and the priest if hymns were ok. Could they function as prayer? I find it easier to do adoration, I said, when I can get that feeling of awe. Voices lifted together can be magical. All my senses need to be involved. The heavenly has to be grounded in the earthly, the mystical in the tangible. Prayer by the sea works well. Praying when swimming and walking involves a connection with my own being. Sunrises and sunsets are definitely awesome. The imagery in religious buildings and the gift of creativity can just blow me away. There is a presence which isn’t there when I am doing admin or the dishes. And anyway, I can’t abide those holy women who tell me to look at the bubbles of my servitude and experience the divine. The priest said it was ok. Hymns can be prayers and he liked the sea too. In fact, he’d had a lovely moment with sunlight and leaves recently.

There was a hymn on my Christmas playlist. I wasn’t sure why it was there because it said nothing about Jesus’ birth or spacemen that went travelling. I started to play it on repeat like it too was the beginning of wisdom. Folliott Sandford Pierpoint who had an awesome name had written the hymn while he wandered around the English countryside. John Rutter had taken it and slightly adapted the lyrics. There was the sun and moon and stars. There was “the love which from our birth, over and around us lies”³. It was the perfect prayer. It was kind of like awe was always available to us. We only had to look around and let it be revealed to us.

“I think people who live their lives open to awe and wonder have a much greater chance of meeting the Holy than someone who just goes to church but doesn’t live in an open way,” said the daily email⁴.

That feeling of awe, the one with the roast potatoes. I think it was knowing I was loved, experiencing a love that comes from someplace else, the divine reflected in the human. Obviously, I’m not that clever. I’m just Jenny from the block an average woman from the pews. My 365 inspirations⁵ told me that.

“The most transforming power on earth is divine love. But people rarely experience God’s love in an unmediated way — directly from him in some type of individual spiritual experience. The only way for most people to experience his love is through those who carry it”.

Where do you get your awe?

P.S. If you are a musical director or have any clout in church circles, could I interest you in bringing back For the Beauty of the Earth?

[1] I Had A Meltdown https://deborahsloan.substack.com/p/i-had-a-meltdown? (external link).

[2] The Dignity of All Things https://cac.org/daily-meditations/an-awe-that-connects-2/ (external link).

[3] Please listen to For the Beauty of the Earth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEeHADqj8TU (external link).

[4] Willing to Be Amazed https://cac.org/daily-meditations/willing-to-be-amazed/ (external link).

[5] Salt & Light https://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Year-Salt-Light-Devotional/dp/1496430050/ (external link).



Deborah Sloan

I am no publishing here but am now on Substack at https://deborahsloan.substack.com. I write about leaving things in midlife.