Releasing the Power of Awe In Your Marriage

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Every morning that we wake up we have a choice. We can enjoy the day or barely survive it. We can choose to view our spouse as the remarkable gift we’ve been given or as just a fixed part of our ordinary life. We can receive each day with joy and gratitude as a fresh opportunity to know and discover them more or believe the lie that we already know all there is to know of them. The choice is ours. Awe is about how we see. Thriving couples choose to see the world with fresh eyes of awe and wonder.

Awe is defined as gratitude, joy, wonder. A deep sense of admiration and inspiration. It shatters your expectations, it does not lend itself to easy classification, it automatically stops us in our tracks and takes our breath away. As Mark Foreman says, “Whether it’s going for a walk on the beach or through the woods, taking in a glowing sunset, or looking at how a parent is loving their newborn, those are all moments of wonder where I realize, there’s still magic in the world, because God made this world, and it  reignites me.”

Some things are true whether we believe them or not. Life is a stunning miracle. Marriage is a beautiful gift, whether we choose to see it or not. Thriving couples keep choosing, over and over, to see the gift of life together for the precious miracle that it truly is, continually reigniting a deep sense of gratitude and curiosity for the magic of life all around them. When we choose to practice this rhythm of awe, the world around us becomes a place of thrilling beauty to be discovered. As Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . [to] get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Day by day, as we choose to practice seeing the world in this miraculous way, we find our ordinary transformed into extraordinary. We discover magic right in the middle of our mundane. The starry night sky, the sunset lighting the clouds on fire, my gorgeous wife walking down the stairs in her pj’s each morning. What before seemed normal becomes divine when I allow God to open my eyes to see the beauty within it.

In his book Contagious, marketing professor Jonah Berger examined why some articles are shared more than others—what  makes one article go viral and not another. What he discovered through his research was, “Awe increases sharing, while sadness decreases it.” In each viral article, there’s an experience of awe and wonder felt by the reader that compels them to share it with the world.

Awe is something set deep within each of us, something we were born to experience on a regular basis. It waits, ready to be awakened. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, “[God] has planted eternity in the human heart.” Without regular doses of awe, our souls can actually begin to wither. As Albert Einstein noted, “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. . . . He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.” If we lose our sense of awe or admiration for each other, we’re headed quickly toward disaster. We were made for awe, for life, and to revel in deep gratitude for the great gift of it all: of life, of relationship, of each other.

When we experience awe, it humbles and grounds us. When we stand in awe of God, for example, in wonder and amazement of who He is, it corrects our view of ourselves, reminding us of how small we are in relation to Someone so much bigger and greater. Awe adjusts our perspective. Researcher and professor Dr. Dacher Keltner notes,

Even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, lead people to feel less narcissistic and entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another. In the great balancing act of our social lives, between the gratification of  self-  interest and a concern for others, fleeting experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions toward the needs of those around us.

When we cultivate a sense of awe, or admiration and deep gratitude for our spouse, it corrects the way we view them. It cultivates humility within us and rids us of any sense of entitlement. Practicing awe reminds us that they do not belong to us, they belong to God, and we are accountable not only to them but also to Him for the way we choose to treat them. It reminds us that they are a child of God just as we are, with transcendent value and  worth— a gift to be treasured, not a burden to bear.

Looking for awe in our everyday life together also helps us see the remarkable value in the marriage we’re building. It enables us to tread more lightly as we work through areas of conflict. It resets our priorities as we remember how fast it all goes by, and that the work we’re doing in our marriage and in our life together is truly important work.

Awe also protects us from becoming blind to the magic of life all around us. It gives us a different lens to see our spouse. Awe is about cultivating a heart of overwhelming gratitude for the unbelievable gift of getting to love someone. It keeps us curious and leaning into their life, asking questions, seeking to know more and more of who they are and who they are becoming in each new season. What a tragedy to think, I already know all there is to know about you. With each new season, just as we are, they are growing and changing and becoming someone new. I want to know that new person, and I want to be a helpful part of their journey of becoming. No one else gets to do that for them; God chose me. What a gift!

Chris and Jenni Graebe

are lifelong learners intent on discovering the core rhythms of thriving relationships. Chris and Jenni are the authors of The Rhythm of Us: Create the Thriving Marriage You Long For. They also cohost The Rhythm of Us podcast, where they host countless conversations around what makes relationships thrive. Chris and Jenni live deep in the trees of Franklin, TN, with their five children and golden retriever.

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