This story is written by my friend, a pastor with great observational insight. Prepare your heart and read it with joy!
Dear Friends (Both Known and Unknown),
Reese is only three-years-old, but she’s spending long hours each day away from our house in northern Katy.
Don’t misunderstand me. Reese is at our home, but she’s also not there as well. About six weeks ago I noticed that Reese had begun spending long stretches of her waking hours in imaginary worlds of her own making.
For most of these hours she has been Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
Reese pulls herself along the floor on her belly while wiggling her “fin.” She calls this her “swimming,” and I supposed it’s a good thing we have laminate flooring throughout the house. I don’t think wall-to-wall carpet would work too well for her.
During these times I am forced to be Flounder, Ariel’s fish buddy. I wanted to be King Triton, Ariel’s father, but Reese wouldn’t allow it. Apparently she’s afraid of Triton, so I think Reese is offering me a compliment by disallowing me from the role.
Mindy is Ariel’s mother Athena. A little boy Reese had lunch with recently was simply drafted into the production and dubbed “Mer-man.” Even the cat has gotten roles now and again. It’s fun. Sometimes it’s annoying, but more often it’s fun.
I think it’s also a good thing that Reese isn’t just consuming The Little Mermaid story. She has certainly “consumed” The Little Mermaid movie and its prequel more than enough for three children. But, Reese hasn’t simply remained a consumer. She has started to become a creator as well.
She has taken the story in, mixed it up, added to it in a creative but fitting way, and is now expressing this new form of the story in her speech and action. As passive as Reese can seem as she watches the story unfold onscreen, Reese refuses to remain that way. She also imagines and creates.
This is a healthy balance, I think. We are tempted to remain only consumers and to measure our value by that standard. In fact, I bet that “consumer” (and not “citizen” or “child of God”) is the primary way we are taught to identify ourselves in our culture. You are, after all, what you eat (and wear and drive and live in and smell like and etc.), right?
We can’t live without consuming food and drink and air (and even perhaps stories like The Little Mermaid). That’s a good thing. It’s a part of being creatures that depend upon one another and the world itself for life. Christians are taught to pray for daily bread, if I remember correctly. We are human and so depend on others (and they upon us) for life.
But we are also created by God to be more than just consumers. God intends us to also be creators. We are told in the biblical story that we are made in the image of a creating God. A God who creates a world and a universe of different relationships. A God who even creates a new hope and a new beginning for his world through the seemingly dead-end death of a man named Jesus.
And so we create. We create works of art and kind words. We create new inventions and quiet moments of forgiveness. We cook meals and plan events of shocking generosity to strangers. We suggest new ways of blessing people who seem in the eyes of many to be unblessable. We build chairs out of wood and families out of flesh. And, of course, we seek to create communities that are powered by the ultimate blessing in creation – self-giving love.
The way the great Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it is that when we look at a biblical book like Deuteronomy or Isaiah we see God’s people called by God to eat and to be satisfied. In other words, God’s care creates a banquet table for creatures like us. We are called to consume and to see this as part of God’s good intent for us as his creatures.
But it doesn’t end there. In such biblical books God’s people are called to eat, to be satisfied…and to bless the Lord. In other words, being faithful also calls for our consumption to be more than an end in itself. Being faithful is not complete until it calls us beyond consumption and into creative action. Faithfulness is not just about consuming care from God and others. It is not complete until we create blessing, until we act in care for God and for the world God loves.
Brueggemann argues that in the Old Testament when God’s people simply consume everything pretty much goes to Hell.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We are better than what the world often tells us we are. Each day that we draw breath we consume, and that’s a part of God’s good gift of life. But another part of that gift is creating. It’s turning life back toward God in thanksgiving and toward our neighbor in creative acts of love.
And as we do it we follow the One who took a few loaves of bread, blessed them, shared them, and somehow created enough to feed a crowd of thousands gathered by the sea. With even a little left over to take along for later.
What would it look like to take the story of Jesus into our imaginations and act it out creatively a little like Reese does with Ariel’s tale? What would it look like to bless God by creatively caring for the needs and dreams of someone around you?
Peace in Christ,