I’m teaching a World Literature class right now, and we have read several epics from different ancient cultures.
While we greatly overuse the word “epic” in our vocabulary’s today, the form of the epic speaks of grandeur and magnitude. Of great heroic traits and adventures. Throughout these ancient epics, our epic heroes go on extreme journeys that are extraordinarily life-changing and that challenge their perceptions of the world around them. For Gilgamesh, he first goes searching for fame and then changes his search to a quest for eternal life. He has learned through a series of exchanges with both morals and immortals the value of life. Achilles, in The Iliad, fights in a war that he doesn’t completely agree with, trying to protect his friends as their leaders fight for power. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is tossed here in there by the gods as they battle for his fate. He has a group of gods that are on his side, and he has a group of gods that are against them. Ultimately we see them acting on their favoritism, grudges, and selfish desires while manipulating the path of Odysseus, who just wants to return home to his wife and child. Beowulf has to fight monsters and dragons, and Sir Roland battles in the Crusades.
Epics very importantly reveal the relationship between the people and their perception of God. The Epic Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and the Iliad all speak to pantheistic gods who manipulate and use mankind for their own pleasure and gain. Beowulf shows a conflicting view of God as pagan worship and Christianity are intermingled in the passages. The Song of Roland depict what some saw as God’s Holy War. And Paradise Lost shows God’s determination to redeem mankind.
I think we can all agree that these last couple months qualify as “epic” – large-scale and life changing. Whether we are working from home, furloughed, or labeled “essential,” odds are that everyone’s work situation has changed. Regardless of your local government’s regulations, daily life looks different, too. Basically, we have all moved into a new adventure.
I am so thankful that God has brought me to my own new adventure – just over a month ago, I got married. Moving into this new chapter has been overwhelming and wonderful. While many are deciding to postpone their weddings to have the large events they planned, we went the opposite route – deciding that we were ready to move up the ready and experience all these changes together.
My focus has shifted during this time, too. I am concerned with how to be a great stepmom (and coming up with a different term to use), how co-parent, how to communicate well, and how to make God the center of my marriage. I know that this task won’t be easy. But I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to this new adventure. I’m particularly excited to be done with my previous stage of life. It would be foolishness though to think that one event, regardless of how wonderful that event was, completely erases the lingering effects of a previous experience. I know that I will have to keep healing. And I know that Jon and I together will still have to wrestle through remnants of our past experiences and hurts. They don’t magically disappear. Instead, they continue to shape us into who we are today. Each experience contributes something to the epic.
Of course, our comparison to the style of epic wouldn’t be complete without addressing how these new adventures and changing perceptions connect to our view of God. My spiritual life is far from perfect, and I’m still battling my own laziness when it comes to spiritual growth, yet my understanding of God‘s perfect sovereignty continues to grow. I don’t understand it, and I can’t explain how it works, but I know that God truly has worked His best from my devastation. I am standing exactly where He wants me to stand. And that knowledge shapes my understanding my father.
Whatever new adventures these changing times have brought to you – whatever God brings next to me – let’s make it our goal to use these experiences to deeper and broaden our understanding of the One who is in control of all things.