Step 10. Embrace the state of astonishment as a permanent and glorious reality.
Astonishment is: the first time you see the Grand Canyon, watching a baby being born, seeing a man on the moon, a surfer riding a 50-foot wave, or viewing the Northern Lights.
A few years ago, my wife, and my son and daughter, went skydiving. I watched. For the rest of the day there was a look of astonishment they could not wipe off their faces. If it started to fade, all they needed to do was think about what they just did and the look came back.
Our first grandchild is about to be born, and as Marti likes to say, “We are warming our hands over the thought of it.” The minute we see her, there will be looks of astonishment on our faces that will not soon disappear.
The dictionary defines astonishment as “great surprise.” That doesn’t quite do it for me. That’s pretty dull. The unimaginable, unexplainable, inconceivable, unbelievable, mind-boggling, spectacular, unexpected, most amazing thing is closer to what I’m thinking astonishment is. And the unimaginable, unexplainable, inconceivable, unbelievable, mind-boggling, spectacular, unexpected, most amazing thing ever is realizing your sins have been forgiven and you are going to heaven. It beats skydiving, the Grand Canyon, and all the rest.
But this kind of astonishment is predicated on one thing — on how much you realize your sin. The Pharisee who is thanking God that he is not like the sinner pleading for God’s mercy, is not astonished at all about having his sins forgiven and going to heaven. He has rationalized his sin away, so he feels he really doesn’t have anything that needs to be forgiven, and he is already expecting to go to heaven. As a matter of fact, he thinks he holds the keys to the kingdom, and he’s not letting any riffraff in — for sure not that sinner over there.
While the sinner on his knees is on the verge of finding out that God indeed heard his prayer, forgave him all his sins, picked him up, dusted him off, and told him he is acceptable in His sight and is going to join Him in heaven someday … that guy is astonished.
The clear and simple difference between these two people is the awareness of their sin. The shortest distance to astonishment and grace is through your sin. Bypass your sin, and you will be one more apathetic Christian. Welcome to the Pharisee club. “We’re meeting in the PTL Room just down the hall. Bring your Bibles and notebooks. Our guest Pharisee will be signing his new book, “Here, Thanks to Me, Am I.”
Want to get rid of the Pharisee in you? Embrace your sin. Not your past sin, your current sin. Embrace the fact that you are a sinner and you will sin today; indeed, you could be sinning right now and you just don’t know it yet. That’s what we find out at P.A. (Pharisees Anonymous): that we are all sinners saved by grace alone.
Years ago, a leader in the church I was working in at the time told me I was a (unprintable)-up. I was shocked. I thought he was nuts. I fought that for a long time, right up until the time I realized he was right. And when I realized he was right, that’s when grace started to mean something to me. Now I thank him for that; what a brilliant man.