There were several reasons I retired early from church music, my love of an extra gardening day each week being one of them, but I have to admit being asked to arrange a song called “Awesome God” for an offertory helped me realize that I no longer had it in me to stave off the flood of tackiness. The fight had gone out of me to maintain a higher standard while teams of amateur tambourine shakers calling themselves musicians stampeded to the microphones. I turned off the organ and tossed the key into a collection plate before heading to the garden store.
In the years since, people occasionally send me a photo of someone they know standing with other people at microphones with the caption: “Mickaleigh doing her worship.” Doing her worship? I could stand “Leading worship,” “Worshipping” or even “Performing,” but “Doing her worship” sounds like laundry to me. “Mickaleigh’s doing her whites.” I’m a stickler for proper terms, good pronunciation and accuracy, and like the advent of praise teams in churches, which defy the true purpose of corporate worship, I find myself frustrated at the falling standards of usage and spelling, thanks to social media and texting.
I have a great diatribe on modern worship, as well as the choice of Mickaleigh for a name, both of which I’ll save for another time, but in this post I’m going to rant about “awesome” and why the word can bring me to the point of cerebral hemorrhage when I hear it, read it or see any form of it. I came of age during the 1980s when Valley Girls, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and surfer language swept the country. Young people who’d never been west of Lubbock were interjecting “awesome” into their conversations with such frequency that the overuse rendered every accompanying noun to be less than awesome, and the word itself fails to convey anything remarkable.
When I announced that the choir would get a two-week summer break, the minister’s wife exclaimed “Awesome!” When I told a security officer that I’d need to stay parked in the loading zone for an extra 20 minutes, he drawled “Awesome…” As stated earlier, I was asked to forego the heavy literature in favor of an awesome arrangement of Awesome God. This little ditty is a 22-word mantra by Rich Mullins repeated on an endless cycle until the first person in a praise team collapses from lack of proper oxygen. I refused to give in and lost my reputation as an awesome guy.
Lately I’ve been noticing social media responses to photos of babies, puppies, kittens and deer playing with bunnies. Among the “Soooo cute!” and “Precious!” and “That is so sweeeeet!” I’m seeing “Awe” where I should be seeing “Aww” or even “Aw.” I won’t mention any names, but I brought this up with a friend because I thought my head would explode if I continued to remain silent.
“You’re wrong,” said the nameless friend. “It means that you find the picture incredible.”
“How ridiculous!” I replied. “What you mean to impart is that you’ve been touched by the newborn baby or the kitten snuggling with a bunny.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. To comment with ‘awe’ means that yes, I’ve been touched by the sweetness of the picture, but that I’m also reminded of just how special these helpless creatures are when compared to the vastness of the universe.”
“Now you’re grasping. You can’t admit that you’ve used ‘awe’ when you should have used ‘aww.’ Admit it; you know I’m right.”
“You’re the one who hates admitting when he’s wrong.”
“True. You won’t get an argument from me on that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m right about this. I looked it up on Urban Dictionary just to be sure I hadn’t missed some change in current usage.”
We continued arguing to the point where I asked her if she thought that being commanded to revere God with awe meant that He was a cuddly being, but she cut me off after struggling to find a word to describe what she referred to as my extreme and unforgivable blasphemy, which defies description. Even so, I think I managed to convince her that I know what I’m talking about in this case. I don’t know for certain that I got through to her because I haven’t received any notifications that she’s commented on any photos. I’ve probably been blocked but just haven’t realized it yet.
© 2016 by Patrick Brown
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