Dinosaurs, sobriety, and God’s grace – a BBC Pause for Thought

Here’s the text for the 22 September 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Breakfast Show with Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2. Listen here.

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When they were nine and five, our niece and nephew came to visit my husband and me. They were so excited to come – until they arrived, then it went downhill very quickly.

We took them ice-skating, they complained: the queue’s too long, I can’t spin like on the Olympics. We went to a café for gourmet hot chocolate. They whinged: it’s not sweet enough!

But we still had a trick-up-our-sleeves: dinosaurs.

Particularly a dinosaur named Sue – one of the largest-ever-discovered-Tyrannosaurus-Rexes-in-the-entire-world. Our nephew Drew loved dinosaurs, but he’d never seen an entire dinosaur skeleton, and Sue was in a museum close to our flat.

Drew was thrilled. On the way to the exhibit, he babbled with excitement, quizzed us on T-Rex trivia. I put him on my shoulders, we climbed the museum’s steps and entered the great hall. When we approached Sue, Drew went totally quiet, silent as a monk. I put him down, he just stood there, his eyes wide-open as we surveyed Sue’s majesty, as we beheld something awesome.

Drew looked up at me with his wide-open eyes, and he said: Is this it? I thought she’d be bigger.

He walked away, I said: wait! It’s one-of-the-largest-ever-discovered-in-the-entire-world-Tyrannosaurus-Rexes! But he was already gone.

And to be honest, I get it. I know what it’s like to want to experience something so staggering it shatters your expectations and totally transforms you.

I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I remember years ago now during my first month sober, a friend in recovery said: I just want God to show up and “go supernova” on me, sort me out all at once. I identified with that. But another friend said: I think God’s really slow and the best stuff comes in small steps.

Jesus says the good life is in the small things – a handful of seeds, a teaspoon of yeast. The promise of something magnificent is there, but it builds over time, it doesn’t happen all at once.

If that sounds less-than-thrilling, you’re not alone. Even Jesus’s disciples were skeptical. They said: Are you the one we’ve been waiting for, or should we look for someone else?

I believe God’s love has been universal from the very beginning. It’s once for all. But it’s not all at once. It’s experienced day by day, step by sober step, one fossil fragment at a time. As the late Queen said: it’s “doing small things with great love”. And very slowly, we discover we’re being seen and changed by something truly magnificent.

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