Okay, so I stole the title from an old Supertramp album…
I started reading John Eldredge’s Waking the Dead. I had read the first chapter online some time ago and thought, “I want to read this!” So, I bought it, and it’s sat around for a few months. Finally – perhaps because I’m more “dead” now and really need it – I decided to pick it up. I’m only 2 chapters into it, but already I’m questioning his premise. In fact, I was questioning his premise before I began reading this book; however, he has set forth 3 propositions that really clarify what it is with which I have a problem.
Here are his propositions in a nutshell:
- Things are not what they seem.
- Some struggle, quest or battle is under way, and may even be hanging in the balance.
- In this desperate hour, we have a crucial role to play.
I do appreciate his discussion on the importance of myth; I believe very much that myth can express “the deep truths of life.” However, myths can also express human needs and desires, which may not be so true. Now, as to his propositions, I can accept the first, that things are not always what they seem. I have referred to The Matrix on many, many occasions to make that very point. I also believe in point number 2, to a point; there is a spiritual war being waged. However, the sense of immediacy that he builds into this proposition concerns me a bit; more on this in a moment.
It’s point #3 that concerns me the most: that we have a crucial part to play. He references Neo of The Matrix, Frodo of Lord of the Rings and other great mythic heroes, claiming that these myths speak directly to us, the meaning being that you and I are each called to fulfill some great quest. Many of us would like to think so. It’s nice to dream that we are special, that we are the ones who can be “the One” save the world, to carry the ring to Mount Doom. But, is this true?
Perhaps Eldredge is writing to people with no sense of vision, and is trying to inspire them. Perhaps – and then I can see his point. But, I see danger in this approach, because I know people who live for this sense of immediacy, where everything is the battle of the century, there’s a demon behind every bush, and the Christian life is all about doing big things for God.
I think this kind of thinking is unfair, dangerous, and contributing to the flakiness of the church. It seems like “fast food” theology: there’s nothing boring or mundane, no planning or preparation, just hot, fast and now. I’m sorry, but life isn’t like that, and it’s not fair to lead people to believe that it is. What about the long, long periods of time between God’s communications with Abraham? We don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that Abraham went on for several years at a time without any major revelation from God; he just lived in faith, holding on what what he had received. Has anything changed today? Is God more in a rush now? Is Heaven in a panic? Somehow, I don’t think so.
Now, think back to all of those myths and great inspirational tales. We see glimpses of important times, focusing on the important people. Was Frodo wasting time all those years before he was given the ring? Then, when Frodo and Sam were off to Mount Doom, Rosie stayed behind to work in the pub. What was her great calling? Apparently, to be stable, and be there for Sam when he returned. What about all of the unnamed characters in any story you know of? What of the years before, and the years after? Can everyone be Neo?
The answer is obviously, “no.” It is insane to think that big or dramatic or any adjectives that we think are important are really that important. What about “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18)? What if that is the essence of your calling? What if your calling is to be a great husband, father and employee? What if the most important, spiritually significant thing you do in your whole life is to teach your children? What if the greatest spiritual battle you face is to love your neighbor?
This is the normal, Christian life, people! You don’t get to save the world (if you recall, that’s been done)! Consider this:
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:10-12)
Whoa, that sounds kind of boring after all that talk of Frodo and Neo. Perhaps. The power of myth can speak to us of universal truths – it can also lie to us, making us think that only the Neos and Frodos are significant, or that we have to live in constant state of crisis. Maybe the real mythic truth is revealed in the story of the tortoise and the hare.
I’ll continue to read Eldredge’s book and see where he goes with this point. Maybe if he can wake me from the dead, I’ll come back some day and delete this post – or at least come back and say that I was wrong. We’ll see. But, for now, I don’t see any major crisis; my plan is just to try to remain faithful with what I’ve got.