Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

See the Line Where the Sky Meets The Sea?

Written by: on February 1, 2024

As I read the Campbell’s book this week (even though it was a reread from my English Literature days in my undergraduate studies) it was hard not to see connections in my everyday life as a husband, father and pastor.

Last night in particular our older kids and my wife and I gathered around the dinner table for one of our favorite meals: steak, beans and biscuits. We also have a toddler, but right now she rarely sits for very long at the table and tends, then, to prevent at least one of us from actually enjoying a warm cooked meal. So, tonight we made the exception, and we utilized the best parenting device ever invented, the television, and put on one of her favorite movies: Moana.

We’ve watched this movie millions of times and know all of the songs and lyrics and, as a father of three girls, I like the female-empowerment message of Moana on her adventure. She embarks on the “Hero’s Journey” to rescue her island from destruction, guided by the mentorship of her grandmother and the trickster/mentor Maui. During her quest, she discovers that the Shadow figure, Te-Ka, is, in fact, the object of her mission – to return her heart. It turns out that Te-Ka is the mother goddess Tefiti, possessing the power to create life and reverse the evil that is spreading, “from island to island”. Always a nice post-modern twist from Disney when the villain becomes the sympathetic one we need to rescue/transform.

What struck me in the midst of my daughter watching this movie was that, when we paused to pray for our meal, we were asking Jesus to give us the peace, strength and focus to follow Him this day, and each day. We also, were on a journey, with Jesus as a our mentor/guide in order to restore our hearts and participate with Him in the restoration of the world.

Then, later in the evening, we watched the new Disney+ show, “Percy Jackson” with our kids. Again, another Hero story.

My takeaway is similar to Campbell’s, the journey of the Hero is all around us. The Monomyth is somehow embedded into all of our human experience and seems to transcend each culture. Campbell claims, “the wonder is that characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale–as the flavor of the ocean is contained in a drop or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea.” (I) Even Campbell’s statement here is poetic!

All of this has me reflecting on the Hero’s journey as it relates to my own journey as a husband, father and pastor and now, a researcher. In fact, even today as I compose this blog and have the rest of the day set aside for our other writing related to research of my NPO. All of this writing is new to me, and this program has allowed me to close the threshold of what was before, and I do believe I am on my way to something new. But I still feel like I’m not the far into the journey, unsure of what perils and pitfalls lie before me. While I love learning and have always dreamed of going on this journey, I’ve experienced the “refusal of the call” multiple times, only to be encouraged by my allies, my wife and my parents. Without their support, as well as my kids’ curiosity as to why Dad is going to school when he doesn’t have to anymore, I’ve embraced this journey and have now crossed a point of no return. I will not be the same as I was before, though I don’t know where the journey will lead. One of my favorite poems by agrarian poet and activist Wendell Berry includes the lines: “being changed by what I know/ into what I know not”.

In perusing the Grand Valley State University site related to Campbell’s work required in our reading this week I came across, “Choose Your Own Adventure: The Hero’s Journey and the Research Process” by Georgas, Regalado and Burgess. They make the claim that, “the ‘return’ back to the known world reveals the ultimate purpose of the journey: to experience a ‘transformation of consciousness’ and then to transform the world by sharing one’s experience” (124).

This was helpful to me in understanding where this journey might lead and gives me hope that the journey that we are on make impact those in the future with the discoveries, failures and victories that we experience along the way. Each of us are on a journey, and I’m glad we’re on it together. To quote Moana: “No one knows, how far I’ll go!”

About the Author


Ryan Thorson

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Pastor. Coach. I am passionate about helping people discover the gift of Sabbath and slow down spirituality in the context of our busy world.

11 responses to “See the Line Where the Sky Meets The Sea?”

  1. Nancy Blackman says:

    I like how you used the phrase “transcend each culture” with reference to the monomyth journey.

    And, I agree, Campbell’s words are very poetic, which might be why I enjoyed this book.

    How does Campbell’s book intersect with your NPO?

    May you always step into the brave areas of your monomyth journey despite not knowing where it will lead you, or how far you’ll go. May your allies always rally and cheer you on, despite how your monomyth journey will also include them and change them, for you have become a hero in their hearts, and they in yours.

    Blessings to you.

    • mm Ryan Thorson says:

      Hey Nancy! Great question! My NPO is on discovering and practicing the Sabbath as a gift for the shaping of our identity as followers of Jesus and leaders. So, the rhythm of ‘taking a break’ on the Hero’s journey to rest, be still and receive direction and encouragement from our Greatest Mentor, as well as connect with fellow journey-ers, is definitely an intersection point with Campbell’s concept.

      Great prompt!

  2. Diane Tuttle says:

    Reading your post I also thought what a gift you are to your family. Setting an example to your children, praying with and for them, enjoying shared time with them, basically, being what they need in this time and place.
    Thank you for sharing your questions about being on this journey. They resonate with me as does the confidence to press on through the joy of learning and the encouragement of loved one. Whether it is a hero’s journey or living in a liminal space preparing to cross the threshold, I don’t know yet. But, there is contentment even in the unknown. I hope you have that too.
    As you say you are starting to know that you are changing, are you able to articulate that in any specific ways?

    • mm Ryan Thorson says:

      Hi Diane,

      Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. The biggest shifts I’ve seen so far in the disciplines of reading and writing. This program is forcing me in to shape, which is what I was hoping for.

      I’m also different because of the experiences and interactions I’ve already had with you and others who are a part of this journey with me. We can’t help but be impacted by the people we interact with on our journey.

      Thanks for the great question!

  3. mm Glyn Barrett says:

    Ryan, thanks for the blog on the book. I think you articulate most of all of our journeys in this doctoral program.
    How can the transformative aspects of the journey, as discussed by Georgas, Regalado, and Burgess, be related to our understanding of spiritual transformation and the call to share our experience in order to transform the world through the message of Jesus Christ?

    • mm Ryan Thorson says:

      Hey Glynn,

      Great question and it is a good reminder of the “Why”, for me at least, behind this journey that I’m on. My hope is that I will be continually transformed during this process into the image of Christ so that my life, leadership and teaching would reflect the transformative power of the Gospel for anyone that would follow Jesus on the Hero’s Journey!

  4. Ryan, I really applaud that you have taken this book in and felt resonance personally. Thanks for rooting heroism in your daily life and with those closest to you. That is not always the case in the hero archetypes.

    Along with Nancy, I too was curious how this intersects with your NPO.

  5. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Thank you for sharing your reflections on Campbell’s book and connecting it to your everyday life as a husband, father, pastor, and now a researcher. I liked how you drew parallels between the hero’s journey in Moana and Percy Jackson to your own spiritual and life journey. I resonate with the idea that the Hero’s journey is embedded in our human experience and transcends cultures. Your openness to the unknown and your determination to navigate this journey, even though you may not know where it will lead. To quote Moana, ‘No one knows how far I’ll go!’ It’s indeed a shared journey.

  6. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Ryan! What a refreshing read. When a family can get together intentionally away from the busyness of life and enjoy times of intimate fellowship is a personal winner for me! I was struck by how you were even able to apply your daughters movie to Campbell’s writing emphasizing the returning of her heart and how we are called to do the same. Your sharing actually shows a real time example of how the journey intermingles with different demographics in ways we sometimes never look at. Thanks for this!

  7. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Hey Ryan,
    Your family time made me smile. Oh, how I miss those little kid days. Enjoy each and every minute, even in the hardest of times.
    You made a statement that has me thinking – “My takeaway is similar to Campbell’s; the journey of the Hero is all around us.” I thought the call for adventure was for momentous occasions and big decisions. But Jesus can turn the most minor everyday life experiences into what Campbell calls an “adventure.” Can that be correct? Maybe they aren’t huge “aha” moments but gentle learning that we can bring into our lives and families to learn from and teach others. Thoughts?

  8. Chad Warren says:

    Ryan, you mentioned the Hero’s Journey is all around us, stating, “The Monomyth is somehow embedded into all of our human experience and seems to transcend each culture.” Do you think it can be overly applied? Are there times when people might use it to create meaning in their circumstances or even rationalize decisions?

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