I am a Sherlock fan. You know, just in case there was any doubt. For most of you that read this blog regularly I really doubt there will be much of a question on that point, because I talk about it a fair amount around here. But this post is also written for the December 2013 synchroblog and I hope some people will read this who wouldn’t regularly, so perhaps it’s a connection worth making explicit.
(Also: major spoilers both for Reichenbach, minor for the series three trailers)
This month, Synchrobloggers were invited to talk about the topic of “coming home.” I suspect a lot of participants will write about happy memories of family holidays and what it means to come home. That kind of thing. But for me, the phrase evokes happy thoughts of a different sort: Sherlock is coming home. Really. Fans of the BBC show have been waiting for nearly two years for the resolution of one of the most gut-wrenching season finales I’ve ever witnessed, and that led to Sherlock having to fake his own death. (If he refused, Moriarty had assassins set to kill the people closest to him.) The series ends with Sherlock throwing himself off the roof of St. Bart’s, in front of John no less – and then in the final seconds we see he’s actually alive.
And… roll credits. Begin one of those long periods of waiting where shows of the show wonder just how the show-creators would work their way out of this. Sherlock is still alive, which is good, but also forced to hide himself away and estrange him from everyone in his life. His friends and family will go on believing he really died. And then, because two years pass by between that moment in series two and when we take up the story again in series three, people will move on.
Can you ever really go home again, though? The trailer for the new series includes includes a truly heart-breaking moment where Sherlock talks about going back to Baker Street and surprising John. But of course John doesn’t live there anymore. He’s moved on with his life. It’s been two years. But from Sherlock’s perspective, he’s been away and so he’s caught offguard that things have also moved on in his absence.
I think a lot of people dream of going home at Christmas and getting back to an almost nostalgic past of good conversation and spending time with people you love. But even if your home situation is a good one (which it isn’t always, and that makes the holidays particularly difficult for some), I often wonder how well we ever can go home again? Even if home stays the same, I’m not the same person I was all those years ago. And even if I stay more or less the same, home seems to always change in my absence. I can certainly go somewhere, and it can be good for quite a few people. But is it ever coming home, coming back to that same place I remember in my rose-tinted memories?
Probably not. Because even if we had the best reasons in the world to go away, after two years away the John’s in our life will have moved on. They have to. Because, as Heraclitus puts it (I’m paraphrasing), No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
This is worth thinking about theologically, and I’m certainly glad the Synchroblog asked this question. Many Christians look forward to the Kingdom of God as a return to Eden, as a homecoming, as quite literally a re-turning toward home. I’m not sure, though, that such a return is ever really possible. Like Sherlock we may have had the best of reasons to turn away. Or the worst reasons. The why we were separated doesn’t really matter; the that is sufficient to change what we had into something we can’t return to.
Of course, even if Sherlock and John hadn’t been driven apart by that swan-dive off St. Bart’s, there’s no way they would have been the same men two years later that they were at that point in their life. They would have grown apart, perhaps, or grown together into something else entirely. And that thing might have been better, or worse, or equally good in a different way. So it is with us: we cannot return to that moment of innocence in the garden, because the way things were is always stuck in the past. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come back into communion with God and with the people in our lives we want to see next week. It can be good again, even better – but it probably can’t be the same.
That actually strikes me as very good news. How awful would it be if we were stuck in a world of how-things-were, now that we’ve grown into something better (I can only hope) that doesn’t really fit there anymore? Any homecoming worthy of the Kingdom of God won’t be a coming again to the home we remember, but to a home worthy of the people God is making us into.
But that hardly strikes me as a bad thing. A bit scary, perhaps, but certainly worth the adventure. Actually, as a certain ex-army doctor would put it, that’s fantastic.
You can find the other contributions to this Synchroblog here. I’ll add a link of all participants when I am back at a computer connection tomorrow evening.