Friday, September 18, 2009
The Need to Feel Small Part 2
This is part 2 of a series of blogs called The Need to Feel Small. Read Part 1 first here.
When I was in my early teenage years I remember occasionally going to the local First Baptist Church youth group. The youth group was a standard youth group with a very common approach to evangelism. This meant that one was likely to hear the words “if you were to walk out of this room and get hit by a car and die tonight where would you go?” quite frequently. So, as with many of the other teenagers, I found myself praying the sinners’ prayer often just to cover the bases because one can never be too safe with one’s eternal destiny. But this was by no means the only kind of appeal to get the kids of the youth group to respond to God. Another evangelistic argument that was used just as frequently as more of a positive motivation went something like this, “God loves you so much that even if you were the only person on planet earth Jesus would have died for you.” This certainly put things into a bit more of a positive light than say, getting hit by a car when you walk out of the room tonight, but I can’t help but thinking as I continue my faith journey, just how small this kind of thinking is.
The problem with this kind of thinking is not God’s love or for us but that it is so focused on the individual with no greater context other than being forgiven and going to heaven when you die. While the argument was compelling in the moment it certainly didn’t seem to connect with my actual everyday life very effectively. So I was saved, but for what, some kind of disembodied state of bliss when I die? (Bliss, by the way, always seemed to be defined in these contexts as a never-ending church service in the sky which wasn’t all that appealing to me as a teenager and I can’t find it that appealing at this point in my life either.)
I needed to know God’s love for certain, but I needed to feel small as well, not in an insignificant way, but small in terms of being a part of a much greater story. When I responded to the evangelistic messages of the youth group as a teenager the story that was communicated to me, rather unintentionally I suspect, was that I was the story, that I was the point of it all. It’s no wonder that it failed to really affect my real life that much. Perhaps we need to realize that we as individuals are not the point but one of many points in a much larger story of which we are invited into by Jesus to be a part.
I can’t help but think of the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. They were small both physically as well as in their place of prominence in the world. Yet Frodo and company found their purpose in a much larger story of overthrowing evil and bringing freedom and peace to middle earth. In the story of Lord of the Rings there was no lead character, it was an ensemble cast, a fellowship where everyone involved played a part in overthrowing darkness. It simply wouldn’t have worked if any of them had had too large of a view of themselves or of their particular place in the world. The fellowship worked precisely because they understood they were each a part of something much, much larger.
God loves me and God loves you but He is not simply after setting his kids up for a great retirement community in the here after. He is actually calling each of us to be a part of something much bigger, a fellowship in a much larger story than we have likely settled for. Perhaps we need to take a step back and see the story in it’s epic glory. Perhaps we need to feel small again.
For further reading on this subject I recommend checking out Christianity Beyond Belief by Todd Hunter