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

Treky Yourself

Written by: on February 1, 2024

Are you a “Treky?” In the 1960s, the U.S. was deep into the space race, which created the perfect environment for the television series Star Trek to gain popularity and capture the imagination of a nation. I visited the Museum of Pop Culture several years ago in Seattle, WA.  Most memorable for me was the Star Trek exhibit.  I am by no means a “Trecky,” but there was one part of the exhibit where we could create an episode of Star Trek.

With the same ease of ordering a sandwich from Subway, you could move down the line and select story elements from the provided list.  By the end of the line, you had produced an episode of Star Trek complete with all the fundamental elements found in the popular 1960s television series. Reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces gave me a similar vibe to experiencing Star Trek  “deconstructed” and its story reduced to 7 ingredientsMy overly simplified takeaway from Joseph Campbell’s work: we are story creatures.  We understand and experience our reality through stories, which is why myth seems to be the primary vehicle through which meaning is conveyed. [1]

Campbell encourages readers to view parts of their own lives as heroic journeys, recognizing the “Monomyth” of their own story. [2] I did this using the steps of the Hero’s Journey provided by Winslow. [3]

  1. Ordinary World

Wake up. Drink Coffee. Read Bible. Kiss wife. Get kids ready for school.  Go to the office.  Solve problems.  Come home. Enjoy family Dinner. Help with homework.  Tuck in kids for bed. Watch Netflix with my wife. Go to bed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. This was my “normal” routine — My Ordinary World in 2018.  

  1. Call to Adventure:

One day, I went to the doctor because of some discomfort in my abdomen.  Some suggested “Appendicitis,” others said, “Kidney Stones, definitely kidney stones.”  However, after a thorough exam, the diagnosis was cancer.  And so the adventure began. 

  1. Refusal of the Call:

I never struggled to accept the diagnosis. But I did struggle to accept that cancer was now a part of my story.  I mean, other people had cancer, not me. Surely not.  I just couldn’t imagine the whole chemo and hair loss thing. Was this how my story ended?

  1. Meeting the Mentor:

Within a week, we were flooded with well-intentioned people giving thousands of suggestions for treatment and comfort.  However, meeting Dr. Lupnitz clarified everything.  In a single hour-long meeting, he calmly walked me through what the next several months would look like.

  1. Crossing the Threshold:

Two weeks after the diagnosis, I was checked into MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, receiving my first dose of chemotherapy. 

  1. Tests, Allies, and Enemies:

The first week of treatment proved the hardest.  Feelings of loneliness, fear, and nausea.  I remember imagining I was at the bottom of a mountain looking up, and I couldn’t see the top but knew if I was going to survive, I had to get to the summit but continually questioned if I could.  

  1. Approach to the Inmost Cave:

For me, the cave I came to was the character of God.  At first, I was afraid to enter that cave, but I eventually found the treasure I was seeking within it.   If he allowed cancer to take my life, was he good?  If he allowed cancer to take my life, would my children think he was good?  Was I going to trust him? Was I going to believe he knew what he was doing?  The treasure I emerged with was steadfast faith, convinced that God is completely good and trustworthy. [4] 

  1. Ordeal:

The most intense part of chemotherapy is definitely the physical toll on the body.  The major doses of poison directly into the heart.  The body’s response is to spread the poison throughout the body. Losing hair, losing taste, losing appetite, losing energy. Losing motivation. Losing joy. Praying “Come Lord Jesus! Don’t tarry!”

  1. Reward (Seizing the Sword):

Having many of the idols and sources of joy stripped away forced me to find joy in Christ and the relationships he put in my life.  I found deep meaning and satisfaction in depending on others, especially my church family.  I also found the courage to be vulnerable and let the body of Christ take care of me. 

  1. The Road Back:

Nearing the end of the chemotherapy, in some ways, I longed to return to the ordinary, but I had a whole new sense of what the ordinary should be.  I knew the brevity of life, the priority of community, and the presence of Christ. While I wanted to taste coffee again, I didn’t want to return to a life filled with distractions, keeping me from regularly experiencing his presence. 

  1. Resurrection:

Through my cancer/chemo journey, I learned some things that I can’t unlearn.  I have been changed, and I can’t go back. I now understand several threshold concepts, with a transformed understanding of health, nutrition, suffering, sanctification, and the necessary dependence that should exist in the body of Christ. [5]

  1. Return with the Elixir:

I don’t eat sugar anymore.  One of the things I cannot unlearn is the devastating effects of added sugar in the Western diet and the correlation to cancer, among other health issues.  Like sugar is to the body, individualism is to the soul.  I learned the devastating effects of the American ideal of “Rugged Individualism.”  My NPO explores the connection between “Rugged Individualism” and human languishing instead of flourishing.

While it seemed at times Campbell “cherry-picked” from a variety of ancient myths to demonstrate the consistency of various elements, I think his concept of the “Monomyth” helps us understand the ingredients common in the stories that have shaped us.  I also found “The Heroe’s Journey” and “Threshold Concepts” from our reading last week to identify aspects of transformation. Both use the concept of a “Right of passage” to frame the progression of change. As Campbell stated, “The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation — initiation — return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth.” [6]


[1]  Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2020),19.

[2] Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 365.

[3] “The Monomyth (The Hero’s Journey): The Hero’s Journey” Grand Valley State University, accessed Feb. 2, 2024, http://libguides.gvsu.edu/c.php?g=948085&p=6857311.

[4] James 1:2-4.

[5] Meyer, J., & Land, R. Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2006), 3.

[6]  Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 39.


About the Author

Chad Warren

A husband, father, pastor, teacher, and student seeking to help others flourish.

15 responses to “Treky Yourself”

  1. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Chad! Thank you for sharing this. your journey is one of great courage, resilience and reward. I appreciate how you outlined Campbell’s points and parlayed them into your personal experience. Overcoming cancer is truly heroic and while we applaud others who make notable contributions to society, this one here is highly commendable. I was also a Trekkie in my youth. As you speak of the road back, I would love to hear some of your takeaways as you have seemed to navigate successful reintegration.

    • Chad Warren says:

      Daren, I appreciate your question about reintegration. As I mentioned in my post, there were several physical health and nutrition takeaways. Beyond those, a major takeaway is how to comfort others. I have many opportunities to be a “Mentor” for others on their Hero Journey through illness. I learned the impact of having someone on the journey. I remember appreciating particular visitors during my chemo treatments who would come and just sit with me. They wouldn’t engage in conversation or feel the need to speak but were just present. That was deeply comforting. For example, one friend regularly came with his laptop and just sat beside my bed and answered his emails. He just brought his work and was present while I fell in and out of sleep. That had a profound impact.

  2. Jeff Styer says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal story. I remember well my mom’s battle with cancer, though it’s been 22 years this April since her physical death. I was very impressed how my mom approached her Inmost Cave. She emerged with a wonderful contagious attitude toward her disease. Her journey influenced some of her co-workers to renew their faith. While she did not necessarily complete her “heroes journey” this side of eternity, her attitude made her a hero to me.
    I appreciate your NPO topic. Flourishing as a community of people and not as rugged individuals is so important. My presbyterian denomination is always asking their churches to consider what their Flourishing Next Steps will be. A great question to ask both individually and communally.

    • Chad Warren says:

      Jeff, thank you for sharing about your mom. I am encouraged by the impact of her contagious attitude and how the Lord used her faith to impact others. Finding “Flourishing Next Steps” is very heavy on my heart.

  3. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Thanks for sharing your health journey, and I am glad you are okay today. I loved your statement, “Like sugar is to the body, individualism is to the soul.” I may be borrowing that if you don’t mind.
    You have me thinking about “separation — initiation — return” and your story. I think there is a degree of loneliness in transformation. Stripping off the old and embracing the new. How can individuals undergoing a personal transformation actively combat loneliness and foster meaningful connections to support their journey?

    • Debbie Owen says:

      Chris, thank you for pointing out that line from Chad’s essay about loneliness. Chad, what an incredible application of our learning this week. It really puts things in perspective.

      Your story also illustrates how universal this structure is. And how universal the struggle is. Thank you for showing us how you went through the inmost cave and came out on the other end with greater faith. Why is it we learn more from our challenges than from our ease? (That’s a rhetorical question!)

    • Chad Warren says:

      Chris, thank you for your comments and questions. One way people can combat loneliness and foster meaningful connections is to allow people to be present and intentionally invite a few people into the “inner circle.” I found that there were a lot of people interested in helping generally. I learned the importance of allowing a small number of friends and family to know most and become vulnerable with them. It is risky, but it is a meaningful risk.

  4. Noel Liemam says:

    Thank you, Mr. Warren, for sharing your personal story and experiences. It is very informative the way you related each part of the ‘hero’s journey’ to your life experiences. I am inspired by your comments which teach me to accept what our LORD has handed to us regardless. Thank you, and my prayers for you and your family.

  5. Julie O'Hara says:

    Hi Chad,
    Thank you. I started reading with interest and nostalgic feelings as I connected with childhood memories of watching Star Trek with my dad. Suddenly I felt on full alert reading how you connected your very personal cancer journey with our topic. How might an awareness of the basic Hero’s Journey outline have provided any source of comfort or help along the way? Or might it with life’s next trial?

    • Chad Warren says:

      Julie, I am unsure how the Hero’s Journey outline provides comfort. I think trusting God is accomplishing something amid trial and suffering is a profound comfort. However, I am unsure that every trial takes the shape of the Hero’s Journey, and I would be cautious in assuming it will. I think it is a helpful framework for reflection after the fact.

  6. Diane Tuttle says:

    Chad, Using the steps of the Monomyth was a powerful way to share your life experience with cancer. Thank you for this very personal post. I think your comment at the end about the experiences of our lives “helps us understand the ingredients common in the stories that have shaped us.” and then in one of your responses and your question to me about being careful to not assume that every journey is a hero’s journey are both valid. I still think many journeys have the capacity to be those threshold moments that shape us. How we reflect on them and choose to respond may determine if the journey is a hero’s journey or not. You have me thinking even more, so thank you.

  7. Elysse Burns says:

    Chad, I was moved by your post. Thank you for sharing your Hero’s Journey. I recently had the privilege to meet a couple navigating through the uncertainty of daily life with a terminal cancer diagnosis. The couple exuded such joy and peace in the Lord. It was very encouraging for me.

    I have always greatly appreciated the idea of supernatural aid that comes to the hero and gives them the strength to continue. The Holy Spirit has done that for me many times. I would love to know what were some of the promises God reminded you of during your journey and how did they manifest?

  8. mm Kari says:

    Thank you for sharing your cancer story, Chad. You did an excellent job taking Campbell’s stages and applying it to your personal journey with cancer. No one would question that it takes courage to walk that journey. Personally, I think it may be more courageous to be so open and vulnerable as you were in this post and share. Heroes like you (courageously battling cancer and treatment, clinging to your faith, and trusting God even in the doubts and fears) gave me joy and purpose as an oncology nurse. On the hard days as a nurse, I only had to step into the room of a favorite patient to walk out with a smile and the courage to continue forward. I have no doubt you were “that kind of patient” for many of your healthcare team. May God continue to use your story to encourage others to embrace their own monomyth with cancer.

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