When my seminary schedule slowed down about 2 weeks ago, I watched a lot of Doctor Who (read “a lot” as “30 episodes in 3 days”). As a result, my thirst for adventure has been activated. I’ve had dreams of flying through different stars and galaxies with the Doctor and his many companions, meeting so many new people and creatures, saving the universe time and time again.
However, also as a result, my Messiah Complex has been enabled. I’ve been bored with the world, people, and life going on around me. I hunger to make large scale efforts to save my world and the universe at large. The “small things with great love” motto seems like a cop-out to avoid doing anything fun and actually life-changing. After “seeing” so many new and wonderful things, I understand why so many of the companions on the show found it so difficult to return to “normal” life on Earth. And once again, I understand a bit better why many Christians get burned out in the pursuit of doing “great and glorious things for God.”
To quench my adventurous yearnings, Bryce and I drove to the base of Reddish Knob this past Sunday afternoon to take a hike. We found a small, off-beat trail at the base of Reddish Knob, complete with a water crossing over a frigid creek and a couple of our own makeshift rock scrambles for good measure. Despite passing numerous trail markers, I kept asking aloud if this was actually a real trail, or if we were making it up ourselves.
About halfway through our journey, I began talking with Bryce about an episode in which one of the Doctor’s companions, Donna, became a Time Lord/human hybrid, but since her human body couldn’t handle the change, she had to lose all of her memories of being with the Doctor to survive. I asked Bryce if he thought it was worth living a “mundane” life if it meant having to lose all of those wonderful memories. Is life really worth living if you have to forget such beautiful and amazing moments? Is it worth it to lose all the “big” things to have the chance to live for the “small” things? I didn’t think so.
To answer my question, Bryce giddily took my hand and took me off the trail. A few yards away, he stopped suddenly and pointed through a gap between some trees, where a small, lone waterfall cascaded down the mountain. He told me that it was made by the moisture descending from the mountain, but if we had walked by it at any different time, we probably wouldn’t have seen it. He had been hearing it throughout the walk but couldn’t find it until now.
He smiled his big, goofy smile at me and said, “Yes. Life is always worth living, because there’s always a chance that something like this can happen. There’s always a chance to see something just as new and just as beautiful.”
His words of wisdom reminded me of the sacrament of Communion.
Jesus took those everyday elements of bread and wine, something the people ate every day, and said each time they ate this meal, they would proclaim Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection until he came again.
Jesus’ words reminded me of the parables he told, of farmers, workers, and women making bread. These parables in turn reminded me of the story of Jesus performing the miracle of turning water into wine to keep an average wedding going.
These were not “universe altering” events to our competitive minds. These were such everyday, simple, and mundane things.
And yet Jesus says they are not so mundane but point towards the power of the Divine in the world, in the entire universe. With his life, Jesus forever took the boundaries between “sacred” and “mundane,” broke them, and fed them to the people as bread and wine.
I often get so caught up in wanting to do “big things.” Save the universe. Lead a large, relevant church that gets lots of attention. Write an Academy-Award winning screenplay. Become a New York Times Bestselling author. I’m not saying these dreams are wrong in and of themselves, but I often wonder if I’m missing the point in purely pursuing them.
Because I need to remember that there’s life around me, big and beautiful yet so simple. The blooming blossoms signifying the end of winter and the beginning of spring. My cat curled up next to me in the morning, his loud purrs in my ear the perfect alarm clock. The kids in my neighborhood riding their scooters. Helping their parents jump start their car on the way to seminary. All of this is life. All of this is mundane. All of this is sacred.
Luckily, not all of my Doctor Who binge-watching has completely removed this concept from my life. In the appropriately titled episode, “The God Complex,” the Doctor’s companion Rory is reflecting on an encounter he had with a boy named Howie, who had recently overcome a severe speech impediment with the help of a speech therapist. And Rory stopped and honored Howie’s achievement for the beautiful, sacred victory it was. In this moment, Rory realized that he had forgotten, in the midst of his spectacular, galaxy-wide adventures, that “not all victories are about saving the universe.”
I often do the same thing.
And then I remember when Jesus broke the bread and passed the wine. And then I saw the waterfall. And then I remember how my Aunt Karen called just to say “Hello” a few weeks ago. And then I remember someone in my small group who shared how far she’d come in finding her voice in a new, authoritative role. And then I saw people sending aid to Nepal and praying and acting for peace and reconciliation in Baltimore.
I remembered the things that give me the most hope that “All shall be well,” are all the seemingly small things.
It turns out they’re the biggest things we will ever be capable of doing.