It’s funny what will trigger something inside of you. I was browsing a movie news website when I came across a trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I was vaguely aware the movie was coming. I had read and enjoyed the James Thurber short story that it is based on in school.
I do not know how good the movie will actually be, but the trailer is wonderful. Scored to “Dirty Paws” by Of Monsters & Men, the trailer not only wanted to see the film, it made me want to sprint out into an adventure of my own. It was full of yearning and melancholy and joy and wonder and awe.
Awe. That is something that is missing from my faith. Or it has been recently. It is not just the idea that God is big. We hear a lot about that in the church. In fact, I think we try to out-spectacle the world sometimes. We sometimes show God as big, bigger, spectacle, cool, and now that it can sometimes make God seem smaller. It sometimes seem like the Almighty is just another blockbuster tallying up a record-breaking audience.
But I’m getting distracted. Awe. I’m not even sure if awe is the right word. I’m talking about this all-encompassing notion that the earth is God’s and everything in it. And this realization fills you with a tide of feelings that you cannot quite name but it compels you to venture out into the world to find where God is working and join in. It makes you want to risk and trust and explore and make leaps of faith. Awe makes you feel incredibly small yet also surrounded by your Maker.
It is not just a feeling but something deep inside your marrow. Perhaps it is that entity of God in which we live and move and have our being. I don’t know if that is awe, but I do know that whatever that is, it seems like it is some distance from me.
My faith does not always thrust me out into the wide world. Rather it sometimes brings me hesitancy. Sometimes it is the way that those that claim the name of Christ throw up fences and close off God’s wild kingdom with what they say and do. I worry what would happen if I speak up when I see the church behaving in ways that create unnecessary barriers to the gospel. And sometimes it is simply my own shortcomings that make me wonder whether following Jesus truly transforms.
I do not want to be full of timidity and hesitancy. I want my faith to be full of awe. I want a faith that is overflowing with imagination, joy, and even fright. As I follow Jesus, I want to stop muting myself. i want to live with that Dead Poets’ Society barbaric yawp; not to draw attention to myself, but to fully live as God created me.
As I write about this, the irony is that all the adventure in the Walter Mitty trailer is imaginary. Not just because it is a movie, but in the story Walter Mitty does not actually go on these great adventures. They all take place inside his head. And I wonder how much of our following God, of my following God, is in our head.
If we commit to God when everyone is cheering, worship only in the safety of numbers, if God is confined to our churches or subcultures, if we only love those that are like us, if we don’t grant grace and mercy, if we’re more concerned with ourselves than others, then is it mostly fantasy? I am not saying that this awe means with have to be Mother Teresa to be legitimate. Yet perhaps we are more like Walter Mitty than we’d like to admit. Of course, the good news is that I think Mitty’s story arc takes his adventure to reality.
So I am on a quest for awe. I want the joy of my salvation returned to me. I want to look at the wide world and the church and not be afraid. I want to spring out and join in the adventure that God is having out there. When I talk about the gospel, I want to reclaim awe, not just in a pious way, but in an all-encompassing way. And I want it all to not just be in my head.