I couldn’t resist a part II. There are probably many more to come but for now…enjoy.
Remember those days of the “great before?” You know, when you were a kid free to be a kid without grown-up stuff. Go way way back when you would play for hours in all those imagination moments on distant planets or in fantasy lands? You know, when your back yard was a grand adventure in the deepest of Africa. Go ahead and reminisce.
My daughter’s could play pretend (as I called it) for the longest time. They would have their dolls and stuffed animals and other props of “once upon a time” lined up while the “story-teller” brought to life the greatest story ever told. I would stand at the door, out of sight, and listen as they played all the parts in this magnificent stage presentation which was unfolding before their eyes. It was as if there were some mesmerized audience who were on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next great scene. I loved watching them in these moments. It really was an unearthly assurance moment where they were completely absorbed in the story and not worried about anything else.
I can remember some of those moments for my life. They are foggy now but I get glimpses of entire cities on hot-wheels-planet (in my backyard). There are those long epic adventures with GI Joe and all his awesome gadgets. There are images of coloring books with giant boxes of crayons that were brand new and untouched. There were also the other crayon shoe boxes filled with well-worn instruments of artistic brilliance. There are drawings and crafts and spiral binders of unfinished stories. All those afternoons in the towering trees with magnificent tree houses under construction (in my mind’s eye). There are forts and playgrounds and bike rides and swings (which can actually give the power of flight to anyone who was bold enough).
In all those moments there was one common denominator…me. Still I wasn’t alone. The stories and grand adventures were always shared with this captivated audience that just loved my dialogue. I would share my deepest desires and hopes and dreams of home run robbing catches at the nick of time and physically impossible leaps across streams that were no less than the grand canyon. I would have endless conversations about the finer points of a snake river canyon jump or parachute plunge or Tarzan rope swing. We’ve all been there. Can you see that child in you?
So what happened?
In those brilliant realms of fantastic moments there was no need for good bad. There was no need for judgment. There was no use of a courtroom. Deterministic list building was so far from our psyche that Mars would have been much closer. There was no separation between us and God in our minds. God was just someone we talked to. He was the captive audience of our shows. We had no fear of an angry God but saw Him as the Mysterious One that made stuff happen. Yeah, we didn’t bother with the fruit from the good-bad tree but instead just enjoyed life to the fullest.
But a sip of poisoned fruit juice and a constant reminder of the necessity of judgment (don’t trust strangers, watch out for the bad guy and so on) and the poison builds up in our system. Just observe the five-year old that hasn’t been corrupted by the power of human judgment and a fallen-Adam perspective. “Daddy why does that man have orange pajamas? Who put those chains on his feet?” In the mind of this “naïve” child the priest and the pauper are the same. The junkie has beautiful hair. The homeless has interesting clothes. The bag lady has a cool shopping cart. There are no predators or victims. Everyone is their friend. Feeding the pigeons is the greatest career ever. To “protect them” we caution them about strangers and bad men. To keep them safe we pull them into the world of judgment. Necessary, yes. Tragic, absolutely.
Somewhere along the way disappointment strikes. Fear and sadness join the party. Trust and naiveté lose their power. Then the wisdom of man with the eyes of the world step in to “help us understand.” “Well honey that is just the way things are.” “You know that bad stuff happens to bad people.” And of course add some giant fruit slices of religion and we get “God doesn’t like it when we are bad and you were bad so that is why you are sad.” Now we grow up to learn from religious confidants that the world sucks and we suck too. “Of course God is angry at humans because we are all miserable slimy piles of poop; we are hopeless sinners who will never be any better until death saves us.” We package that into a nice tract and pass it out as our penance for sucking. Maybe that is a bit overkill but can you see the contrast?
Jesus had a few things to say about children and the Kingdom:
Matt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to
sin(stumble, stumbling block, skandalon), it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (ESV, LLT modified)
Remember God is relationship and communion and fellowship and completely other-centered. His identity is in the other. Jesus finds Himself in the Father and the Father in the Son. So there is no concept of greatest in the triune family. This is why the child example is used by Jesus. A child in that culture would have no cultural worth. They were too small to contribute to society. We see them in our culture as these innocent little cherubs of joy (which they are) but in that time they were a burden on society until they could manage a plow or pick some grain or build a house. They are completely dependent on their family. So Jesus is saying that unless we “get over ourselves” we can’t share in the beauty of the Kingdom. We can’t participate in the completely unconditional love and acceptance of our triune family if we are always trying to establish our own worth in our own effort. A child doesn’t try to prove his importance. His importance is found in the eyes of his father. So the stumbling block (“sin” in the ESV) is the departure from the natural humility of a child. When we bring religion and self-righteousness and all the poison of good-bad and make it their g.o.d. we have caused them to stumble. How about those tracts now?
Now here we are years removed from the innocence of a child. We are decades maybe from the reality of imagination. We are eons from the carefree expression in communion with a God that we knew in our hearts. Instead we have been filled with bad fruit and religious traditions of g.o.d. theology. Oh boy have most of us stumbled. Wow is there a great schism in our person.
This is our Schism Within. In our good-bad assessment and reasoning and religious emphasis, we have lost touch with the real us. The real us is the one who walks with Jesus in our good or bad. The real us is not afraid of God or a childlike conversation. Our real us says “daddy why does this or that?” Our real self looks forward to walks with our Abba. Our real self doesn’t see ourselves from the good-bad. Prison clothes are colorful pajamas. Bad decisions are learning points. Past mistakes are stories to be told. We are free from shame and guilt and condemnation. We walk right up to our Papa and get a hug. We tell stories to Jesus and He loves the endings. We stop judging ourselves (as the religious condemning stumbling block makers insist) and instead embrace our true selves both good and bad. We eliminate the schism from our thinking and embrace our original created intent in Jesus.
We need to see Jesus in us. In Him we will not be afraid of us. In Him we will not be ashamed of us. In Him we will love us as He loves us. He has always been with us…in our backyard fantasy land…in our pretend moments…in our carefree joy… just being a kid. He is our Father. We are His children. He isn’t screaming at us “why don’t you grow up?” Instead He sternly warns anyone who wants to try to make us grow up. Millstones and oceans…no way.
Go ahead and spend some time with you in Jesus. I can’t imagine how far God can take us when we are finally free indeed to be His children. We are in Jesus in the Father which is our inclusion in unearthly assurance. He is also in us in the Father where we can find us in Him as we were intended to be in the eyes of our Father. This is our “image of Christ” since we will know Him as we are fully known. Think about it…no more schisms.
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