Friday, October 14, 2011

carnivores, decepticons, and hope

"mom!,"  jack yelled from his bedroom during reading time.  continuing in a very factual tone, he yelled across the house, "mom, the apatosaurus weighed 30 tons."  as if this information was critical to the folding of the laundry, he added with urgency, "they also kept pebbles in their mouth to help with digestion, and they can stand on their back legs, which are taller than their front legs.  also...."  and he continued with a vast array of facts about some enormous ancient terrible lizard. 

this type of moment is the bricks and mortar that build our normal days.  when you are in the throws or raising three boys, life looks a bit different.  the moments that add up to make up a day shift somewhat, from what might be considered typical to normal people, to discussions about grasshopper guts, iguanadon intestines, and the talents of transformers.  right now, cade says we need to have another baby so we can either name him "sideswipe" or "new optimus prime." 

that's life with three boys.  it is always an adventure, and always interesting.  just yesterday, caedmon told us that he wants to be a "church seller" when he grows up.  when pressed on what that means, he told us that a church seller sells stuff that no one wants.  i had the terrible sinking feeling that he was talking about my career, and that this is how he envisions what i do, but i'm not sure if that's what he meant or not.  when pressed further, he retreated a bit, and shut down the conversation by saying defensively, "i'm just going to keep it in my mind right now." 

we're constantly laughing. 

but life isn't all herbivores and autobots.  it's also full of ferocious meat-eaters and those masters of evil, decepticons.  which is simply dad-of-three-boys language for saying that life is all kinds of broken.  as much as my kids clearly love each other, they fight regularly and vociferously.  they hit one another.  they say things like, "i'm not going to be your brother anymore!" and "i'm never playing with you again."  most playtimes include at least one episode of tears and hurt feelings, if not hurt bodies, as a result of being bludgeoned by various toys used as weapons. 

i end up having to give time outs or other various kinds of punishment, sometimes feeling bad that i've raised my voice too much or reacted too strongly.  and when i have time to reflect on these unfolding dramas, it occurs to me (as it so often does) that life is so broken.  that even as children, brothers fight with one another, hurting one another in order to obtain the right to hold more toys, even pretending to "kill" one another when they think dad isn't listening.  this isn't the way we were meant to be.  brothers aren't meant to bite or bludgeon, but to embrace.  but the world isn't as it should be, is it?  it's broken. 

keep that in mind for a moment while we change topics.  we'll come back to it.

i'm preaching on jeremiah 29 this week.  while normally a chapter from the prophets might be a bit obscure, this particular section of scripture, at least verse 11 anyway, has become widely (over) used for everything from frilly bookmarks to capital campaigns.  it has become the motto of anyone who wants to believe in some kind of prosperity Gospel, as if God's deepest desire is to make sure you get a new ipad and a better car.  let me just say very clearly that this is a blatant misuse of this scripture.  despite a recently popular movement in american christianity (jabez, anyone?), God is not nearly as interested in growing your property as in building the Kingdom.  so if this verse has become a way for you to justify spending more money on yourself ("treat yo self!), then you are missing the point. 

that being said, i read a blog recently that i think overreacted on this point a bit.  yes, it is frustrating when people pick and choose verses of scripture to meet their own needs and justify their positions, but that doesn't mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.  when Jeremiah has God saying this in verse 11, "i know the plans i have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future with hope," it is not a promise to give us whatever we want, but it is a promise.  the argument i read from one angry-ish blogger was that this was written to a particular people in exile and shouldn't be commandeered by modern Christians for our own use.  and while i agree that there is a danger there to try and turn this verse into a blanket approval by God to focus on self and pleasure, i don't agree that there is nothing here for us. 

no we are not in exile to the assyrians or the babylonians.  but are we not also in exile?  are we not strangers in a strange land?  are we not living life with one foot in our home (the kingdom - or rule/reign - of God) and the other foot in a place that is most definitely not our home (a broken world)?  are we not (and here we return to where we started) in a place where brothers fight over plastic swords and who has the cooler underwear? 

you see, as we continue to discover in juat about every moment of our lives, we are living in a broken world.  we are living in exile.  we are not home.  but we cling to hope, because we believe that we have not reached the end of our story.  we believe (and this is radical!) that God, too, sees the broken world in which we live (and our own brokenness) and says something like, "don't give up!  this is not the end!  i have plans for you!  plans to make things right!  plans to end this exile!  plans that involve a future of great hope, not one of despair and decay!" 

besides the fact that God uses too many exclamation points, i hope you hear this today.  in a world of carnivores and decepticons, God has a different plan.  not merely for your own prosperity, but something far bigger and infinitely better:  the redemption of this broken world - an exodus from exile - and a homecoming to a place where brothers play instead of fight, and where laughter isn't soon followed by tears.  it will be perfect.  it will be right.  and it will be home.  until then:  hope.

2 comments:

Emoly said...

hmmm truthfully I don't think I've thought of it as the kingdom of heaven before. I received a lovely cross-stitch of this verse as a high school graduation present (from our pastor's wife). And while I don't think I ever thought of heaven, I certainly didn't think of it for my own personal benefit.

I always thought of it more as, "God knows what he's doing, even if I don't... things will get better, I will just keep praying about them" sort of way.

Thanks for introducing a better (more eternal) meaning! I like that much better.

Crafty P said...

love it.

love the way your brain works and God makes words come out of your fingers. so cool