Saving a World: A Small Town Sort of Sacramental
No one is born alone, however alone we may live and die. And that fact brings with it certain and inescapable expectations which shape and form that life before ever it can know and understand the forces that order and disorder it. Back of this dynamic is the divine intention for character: that fixing of a soul in a dynamic of synergy, an active continuing union with the infinite pluralities of grace which are God. But this divine intention is not impervious to freedom, and what is meant for good can be bent for evil.
Small towns are just this sort of soul-forming grace that God brings us. There is a tangible and thick difference between being “the Williams boy” whom no one will mistake for anyone else and in which label is writ a destiny, and being another Williams boy in a place where the distance of a few blocks renders that boy invisible and unknown to anyone else. There are, as I said, certain expectations associated with “the Williams boy” that will mark and make him what he will one day become, for good or ill, expectations that the other Williams boy will never know let alone care about, for good or ill.
But as is all too often true of sacramental graces, those whose lives are continuously marked by them seek to escape them, and those who never had them mock and misunderstand them. It takes another sort of grace for a small town soul to one day learn the divine mercy that has been given him and to return to this grace, not just in a nostalgia of mind, nor even of geographical location, but rather to return to the geography of soul formed by these small but mighty tectonic plates, and know again that polestar called home.
For there is a destiny there, and even though such a destiny can be an unmerciful one, for there is nothing inherently divine about a small town, still even the merciless is not without its theandric mercy, even the severe and soul-crushing horror of small town disorder is not able to halt the heavenly flood of godly love.
But when mercy and love combine in the sacramental grace of a small town, and when a soul has been plowed by the humble geography of place, then that destiny becomes a song whose chorus remakes and echoes in heart and mind. Voices which the unprepared might take as binding and constricting, to a ready soul sound forth the call of a great end, and a divine mission.
Yet make no mistake. This divine mission is no adolescent romantic quest for glory and renown. This mission will not save the world. Or, at least it will not do so at once. But it will save a world. A world bounded by the home and a small legacy known only by sons and daughters. However great the dreams of a small town soul just setting out in life, the divine love will bring stronger and truer dreams from the harvest of that soul. Dreams of the hearth, the still peace of a slumbering household, and the godly and silent expectation of a brightening dawn.
The call of the small town on a soul can bring about the grace for which it has been divinely designed: to save a world, and in saving that world, return grace for grace by saving the small town which gave that world birth.
When a man loves his wife until death and beyond, when sons and daughters bring to a man their sons and daughters, when the prayers a man prayed at his bedside come round full circle and he prays them with his sons’ sons and his daughters’ daughters, then the world is saved because a world has been saved.