I was angry this morning. No doubt people could tell as I stomped into the building the church uses Sunday mornings dragging my colossal homemade fish behind me. It had started to fall apart when I tried to cram it into the back of the van and I wasn’t even halfway to the WaumbaLand room when the back end fell off. A teenage boy was kind enough to pick it up and carry it in for me. Another teenager, this time a girl, was enthusiastic about helping me put it back together. The people who helped me weren’t my teen and tween. No. Those boys sat on the couch and watched as I tried to pull my big fish out the door and get it into the van. I snapped at one and he lifted a finger to help me get it off the ground into the trunk but not much more than that. When it was time to unload all my theatrical props, it was obvious from their posture and their words that they didn’t want to. I’m an embarassment to them. More than once they’ve asked me, “Why can’t you be like the other parents? You know, the ones that just go and sit in the service.” They don’t want to be seen with a mom dressed as a fisherman or one hauling a big homemade fish for the story of Jonah. And so I found myself seething with anger at them and their selfishness.
I knew my reaction was wrong. Their choices don’t have to affect my attitude. I confessed it to one leader and she rightly suggested prayer. She also said we should talk some more because her kids weren’t anywhere near my boys’ ages and she too had days where she felt like pitching them overboard. I did pray in the bathroom before heading into the worship part of the ceremony. The songs chosen convicted me and I could sing with reality the words, “A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains and though I stumble again, I’m caught in your grace…”
I’m volunteering at church as a storyteller for the three to five year old group. I look at these cute little ones and realize that these kids will soon be learning to read. I want them to read the Bible and know its truths. Not all of them come from families with strong Christian backgrounds. Many of them come from homes where Christianity is something their parents are just starting to explore. Even some of the leaders and helpers have had to sheepishly admit to me that they don’t know the Bible stories very well. They didn’t grow up with them. A few of them have said how wonderful it is that their kids can be exposed at such a young age. They hope their kids will follow a better path than they did. I hope that for these children too. I grew up with the Bible and it kept me from a lot of wrong. I’m thankful for that now. I have fewer regrets in life than a lot of people because faithful people took the time to teach me God’s ways using His book. I want to be one of those faithful people for my own children and for others. I don’t want to be one of those ordinary people that merely fill a seat in a service. I want to be someone who makes a difference to someone and if it means dressing up as a fisherman and constructing homemade giant fish so be it. I don’t want to just tell a story. I want the story to come alive and be meaningful. I want to do all I can to impress on little ones that the Bible is a book worth looking into.
I think of Jesus. He went out of His way to be where people were. All sorts of people. He spoke everyday language to them and used examples and stories they could relate to. I imagine He must have been a bit theatrical because the crowds loved to listen to Him. He wasn’t like the teachers they were used to. I imagine that what made Him different was that He actually cared about His audience. He wasn’t taken up with what people might think of Him. I don’t think he was overly concerned about His hair or outfit. What mattered to Him was communicating effectively God’s message to the people God loved. He didn’t strive to be ordinary or extraordinary. His focus was not on Himself; it was on God’s will. It didn’t matter to Him if the disciples approved or disapproved His approach. He looked away to see His heavenly father smiling at Him.
This is where I need to learn from Jesus. It DID matter to me very much this morning that my “followers” disapproved of me. I was upset with them. I thought seriously about being like all the “ordinary parents” in the service. Most of them don’t know what I do so they do often look at me funnily when I come in to worship in costume. I need to look away to my heavenly Father. He knows what I’m doing. He knows why I’m doing it. It’s His approval that ought to matter to me. Maybe the bottom line is that the one telling the stories has as much or more to learn from them as her audience. Jonah didn’t care too much about doing what God wanted. Maybe obeying was too much work or maybe it would embarrass him or his family. I don’t know. What I do know is that today’s story ended with me sitting inside my giant boxy fish. Jonah needed to learn to obey God and lay aside his own thoughts on God’s plan and God had an interesting way to teach him that lesson. God’s a bit theatrical I’d say. It’s quite the story.
I’m disappointed with my boys and their attitude about my service. I wish that they were on board with me doing their utmost to help others discover Jesus. They seem quite content to strive for ordinariness – to look and sound as much like all the other boys their age. I must look away to God. He knew how to work with Jonah. He knows how to work with the WaumbaLand storyteller and her legion of issues. He can be counted on to be faithful to work in their young hearts too. Sitting inside a real fish for three days was a turning point in Jonah’s life. Sitting inside my poorly constructed replica today made me realize that, despite my son’s reactions to my theatrical flair, I was on the right track. Who knows how God will reach them? One only has to read the Bible to see how creative He can be.