Joining the Big Story

One of the books I’m reading now (having a short attention span, I usually read several at a time) is Dave Schmelzer’s Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist. On p. 105 Schmelzer says,

This [he’s been talking about how a person who desperately needs God is not bored with what he’s doing] does back to the hero’s journey, wouldn’t you think? Either there really is more going on around us than we think or there isn’t. And either we really have a central role to in that larger conflict or we don’t. And if it’s all true, either we say yes to that role or we turn it down and request new experiences or insights to alleviate our boredom.

That resonates on a few levels.

First, I’m continually praying for my children to experience this.

Second, it fits nicely with this Sunday’s sermon. I’ll be dealing with Mordecai’s words to Esther: “Perhaps it is for just such a time as this that you have come to be Queen.”

Finally, it makes me think of one of the other books I’m currently reading (a book much longer and slower reading than Schmelzer), Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. Taylor describes one feature of the modern age as our propensity to see depths as inside us, not outside us in the world. Schmelzer’s sense of a bigger story that we may or may not enter is hard for us to fathom when we think all depth to life comes from inside us, either through self-exploration or self-expression. Jesus came not just do do something in the depths of my being, or to free me for self-expression. Jesus came to invite me – to invite us – to become participants in his story.

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8 Responses to Joining the Big Story

  1. Kim says:

    I think I would personally benefit from you elaborating more on what you mean. Sometimes in my spiritual journey I seem less spiritual to myself than I once was; back in the day when I read a lot of explicitly “Christian” books and was more involved in church activities. Yet, when I pick up what’s selling well in the Christian bookstore, it so often either seems to retread the milk of the Word or it seems to be appealing to the surface. It does seem boring, as you have mentioned above. I don’t know what to think about my spiritual journey, to be truthful. I think I’m finding myself in a place previously unknown … and perhaps that’s what you were getting at when you say that needing God is never boring … when you look around you and don’t recognize any of the landmarks, you just have to trust.

    Sometimes I get tired of being stretched, spiritually and in other ways. But the process is indeed never boring.

  2. rheyduck says:

    When I allow myself to be in situations where I have to trust God, where if I don’t pray I’m in serious trouble, that’s when I’m the most fulfilled, and, I think, most the person God made me to be. This is not to say that each of these instances will be the most “exciting.” Seeing God come through – whether in quiet or noisy ways – is what builds my faith.

  3. Kim says:

    Yes, I can relate to that. I’m also interested in the quote that we “tend to see depths as inside us rather than outside in the world.” I am presently immersed in studying perception, particularly infant perception. James and Eleanor Gibson proposed the idea of “ecological perception” in which perception is necessarily defined by the organism-environment interaction; that studying only the organism (read in this case: infant) is reducing the unit of study down too far, to the point below that of the phenomena. The Gibsons came up with the term “affordances” to describe elements of the environment that the organism perceives to have certain meaning. One of their examples is a wool slipper … to a human, it provides the affordance of warmth for the foot; to a puppy, it provides play and teething; to a moth, it provides nourishment.

    So, when I read your quote, I started thinking about where the depths truly lie … perhaps between the inside and the outside. Followers of The Way have always put much meaning into relationships, with Christ and with the Body. Perhaps this is a tiny hint into the Trinity as well … although it would take a smarter person than me to elaborate upon it.

  4. rheyduck says:

    Your “affordances” sound very Heideggerian to me, at least fitting with what I’ve learned of Heidegger from listening to Hubert Dreyfus’ lectures on Being and Time. He talks quite a bit about the “for which” of things, something I find quite compatible with Christian theology.

  5. Dan says:

    I love what you said about how “Jesus came to invite me – to invite us – to become participants in his story.” This idea of the “Hero Myth” that you mention in Not The Religious Type, Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist, I think resonates with everyone (or at least did when we were younger). Everyone seems to have this sense of cosmic destiny, this idea that they were created to participate in and take on something greater than themselves. In that book, Dave writes, “What if God intends for each of us to take that hero’s role in our own vast adventure? And what if, when we do, we’ll find out why we’ve been created and about the actual stakes of the world around us?” (87). It’s not until we decide to take on the adventure, to trust God and enter into the unknown, that we slowly start to understand why he created us (“for such a time as this”) and begin to realize how high the stakes are.

    I think you’re right on in relating this to the story of Esther. I’m sure you had an inspiring sermon. I like the part that Mordecai says to Esther leading up to that:

    “When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?'” (Esther 4:12-14)

    It’s this calling into something greater, to take on/enter into Jesus’ offer for us to participate in his story and become the person he created us to be. And the adventure is anything but boring. It’s interesting that Mordecai essentially says, if you choose to hide and not become this heroine, God will raise up another, but you will have missed out on the great things he has planned for you…

  6. Clix says:

    Yes! This is TOTALLY what I believe – that God calls us to work WITH HIM to accomplish something amazing. πŸ˜€ Wow. It’s nice to know that if I’m off my rocker on this, at least I’m not alone! πŸ˜„

  7. Wow! Well said, and something needing to be said again and again.

  8. Kristin says:

    Good discussion on “Not the Religious Type.” If you are interested in discussing further, Dave Schmelzer, the author, is doing an online chat at Abunga.com tomorrow, Oct. 29, from 2-3 p.m. EDT. You can join in at http://Abunga.com/AuthorsAtAbunga. Hope to see you in the chat!

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