A few afternoons ago I went for a walk. After being in class all morning and in the library for most of the afternoon, I really needed to get outside for a little bit. Since I normally run, and run with an ipod, I thought it would be a good change-of-pace to slow down and walk, without the ipod. I tried to count how many different animals I saw and how many different varieties of plants that I passed, but I gave up after about 20 minutes. It hit me pretty hard: I pass by so much detail and so much variety and rarely, if ever, stop to recognize and take pleasure in it.
I've been reading a book by Eugene Peterson for one of my classes. It's called The Wisdom of Each Other, and it's a series of based-on-reality fictional letters between Peterson and a distant friend who has just converted to the Christian faith. Sprinkled throughout the letters are numerous one-liners that catch you off guard and make you want to put the book down and stop and think. And since most of the letters are fairly short in nature, Peterson really has to pack-in what he wants to say. I think he does a fine job.
One of the key themes he talks about in the book is church--what it is, what it does, and some of its pitfalls. In describing these elements of the church, I found myself really resonating with one particular description of the act of church, ie worshipping God with other believers. Peterson says, "every call to worship is a call into the Real World". Maybe that doesn't strike you as that astounding of a quote, but let me unpack it a little bit.
What he is referring to with regards to waking up to the Real World is what I experienced in my walk the other day. Our daily realities more often than not resemble the worldly conception of reality rather than the Godly conception of reality. The world's conceptions of truth, beauty, community, family, self-worth, freedom, etc., are like fractions compared to whole numbers. They work up to a certain point, but inevitably falter because they are too shallow.
The truth is, our conception of reality (which is most often just like the world's) is too shallow. We fail to see the invisible mysteries of God at work all around us or witness the tiny miracles of daily living, mostly because we are either too self-absorbed to notice anything other than ourselves (this describes me accurately) or we are running too fast on the treadmill of life. Church, then, or rather the act of worshipping together, reminds us of the Real World. It brings us back to the truth that God is big and God is in control and God is at work all around us. That is the story we enter in when we worship together on Sundays.
I need that wake-up call every day, especially in those days that feel like re-runs, like nothing new is happening, that all that is really going on is something that has happened before. It's in those times, more often than not, that the tiny miracles of God are embedded, waiting for me to notice. Waking up to the reality of God every day is difficult, but it is to discipleship what brushing our teeth in the morning before we walk out the door is to the rest of the day.