“Tea without sugar is just vegetable soup.” –Lance
I recently came across a British television series called “The Detectorists.” The above quote is evidence of the quirky, dry delivery of so much of English humor. And the rest of the show isn’t any different. In its first season in 2015 it was recognized by the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) as the Best Comedy on television. From the episodes I’ve seen, it’s easy to see why.
Now, it is not safe for the whole family. Those of you who are familiar with European television already know how “free” they can sometimes be with language. Although their liberty might raise eyebrows here in the United States, or used to, the show itself is a poignant look at life through the lives of some ordinary people, even if they are somewhat socially awkward.
What is the gist of the Detectorists? Well, the Detectorists are men and women who are interested in metal detecting. Yes, that’s right…metal detecting. And as odd and boring as it seems to be to build a show on, it’s not. It makes a perfect metaphor to carry the story forward. Think about it: plodding, by yourself, across furrowed fields or fallow ground, always searching, never finding much more than litter, giving up before the big score. To the pub for a pint.
And so the show’s writers use “always searching” as a way to convey a deeper message experienced by humanity in its quest for identity, significance, and happiness. There is nothing really religious about their message, but the subterranean connection is not lost. Within each of us is a desire to have an identity, to know we have value and that we offer something significant to the world around us. The Detectorists is an honest show that helps us laugh at ourselves through the lives of others.
What is the lesson for the follower of Jesus? What does it mean for you and me as we seek identity and affirmation? What does it mean to see the value and worth in others? To not simply seek treasure for ourselves, but to see others as treasured by Christ so much, that he would give his life for His Creation? A current events example is the biblical posture of welcoming the stranger, the sojourner. With Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor, how will you respond to people needing to be shown they are valued and loved by you, and that their country of origin makes no difference to Christ? How can the Church help?
Comedy helps relieve the tension in a tense world. Our brokenness is momentarily bound up with mirth and we breathe a sigh of relief as we see someone else has experienced what we’ve experienced. But the laughter stops, the credits roll, and we return to our quest.
For a detectorist on the show, the quest for the “Holy Grail” is finding Saxon gold or Viking plunder. It will make them wealthy and well-known. Indiana Jones would be proud! For a follower of Christ, our identity is found in Him, first and foremost. Our talents and hobbies and other ingredients flow out of our relationship with Him. No matter what we do or our country of origin or how different we wish our past was or want our future to be, the grounding of who we are begins first and foremost in Jesus.
Augustine of Hippo, a Christian Bishop from the 4th century wrote, “Our hearts our restless until they find rest in You.” Behind that statement is a succession of desperate searches for fulfillment: excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophy, dissipation and distractions—futilities that left him so weary of himself he could only cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
Thankfully, it wasn’t long for him. He soon found solace while reading the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. He recognized his quest was finally over. Forgiveness! Grace! New Life! All those things which he sought to find identity in were pushed aside like turf, top soil, and a foot of earth and there was Jesus. And Jesus was enough.
Each of us has experienced this quest-like search at one time in our lives. We want to know who we are, that people value us, and we are not insignificant to God. It’s a beautiful moment when we discover our true value in and to Jesus.
Where are you in this journey? Do you feel the certainty of solid earth beneath your feet or are you still restless with uncertainty? I’d love to hear from you, to receive your reflection on what it means for you to be searching or to have finally stopped looking for the Holy Grail.
In the Identity of Jesus,