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Experience the Numinous

When I was asked to start this blog, I’ll be honest: I had to google “blogs”. Technology is not a strength of mine, and it seems a new century began without my being particularly aware of it.

My children have been trying to convince me of this for years, but I blissfully ignored them. They grew up gathering in the living room after dinner for “family reading” around the fireplace because we had no television.

When my oldest son started high school and tried to persuade me it was necessary for him to have a computer to look things up for homework, I mercilessly pointed him in the direction of our encyclopedias and shelves of books on every topic he could possibly need. I sent him to the library for anything we might not have.

My husband joined the children in their effort to slowly drag me into the new millennium. I received an iphone for Christmas, and a questionnaire from the high school to determine if there truly were students who didn’t have internet at home to complete their assignments in the year 2017. My son did his homework in coffee shops that offered free wi-fi when he had to write responses to articles that were only available on-line.

So when I was actually offered a laptop to use in exchange for writing this blog, I had to start by researching to find out what a blog was. An amazing thing happened: I discovered that blogs were akin to some of my favorite books! They reminded me of Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswick Journals, or collections of essays by C.S. Lewis.

As a teacher, I would always tell my students that when they found a book they loved, they should search out the author and read everything they wrote. Stories reflect an author’s worldview, and if you love a particular book, chances are you’ll like a lot of what that person has to say. By doing this myself, I had discovered the nonfiction of my favorite novelists, and they read like an inspirational blog.

An author I once heard speak said that the best books of all are those that convey “a sense of the numinous…” He read some examples, and I was struck by the power of what he was saying, but at the same time, I had the vague idea that I didn’t fully understand what he meant.

What exactly was “a sense of the numinous”, and how did one convey it?

I thought I knew, perhaps even perpetually lived with, a sense of the numinous. But I couldn’t put it into words, which is a sure sign I didn’t know it well enough.

So I looked up the word in my living room dictionary. The one on my coffee table, not on the internet. (My husband and I also have a much larger dictionary that we keep in our bedroom, so when we disagree over the meaning or pronunciation of words, we can resolve our conflicts quickly, without having to walk across the house.)

Webster’s defines it as follows:

numinous: adj 1. supernatural, mysterious 2. filled with a sense of the promise of divinity; holy

I love that! “filled with a sense of the promise of divinity…”

One of my earliest memories is seeped in this. My sister and I were curled up in the big double bed we shared, and I didn’t want to go to sleep because I was afraid of having nightmares.

I had bad dreams a lot when I was little and I dreaded bedtime, I don’t know that I had actually verbalized this to anyone before then, but for some reason on that particular night, I had told my sister.

Perhaps the dark stillness of the room added to the mystery of that moment, but to this day I get tingles whenever I think about it. She whispered that there was a God who made everything in the whole world, and I could pray and ask Him to keep me from having bad dreams.


This was astonishing news to me. As I lay there considering the vastness of the world, the thought of One who made it all and had the power to protect me from scary dreams filled me with awe. I did not know of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or of Peter, James, and John, but their God was HUGE and magnificent to me.

I prayed, and slept dreamlessly.

To this day, I often lie awake in bed at night. Not filled with fear, but “filled with a sense of the promise of divinity…”

A sense of the numinous.

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