I can’t imagine what it must be like to be 5. I mean, I can. I was. But it was a lonnnng time ago. People say so much has changed; the world is a different place. And it is. 5-year-olds today know phrases like “screen time” and “play date” and “emergent reader.” My 5-year-old has been through metal detectors, has pin numbers for childcare pickup and has participated in more #pinterestfails than I care to admit. But in so many ways, being 5 is just about the same. It’s about discovery – physical discovery, mental discovery, emotional discovery.
And social discovery.
There is a rat pack of children aged 1-10 that rules the parking lot from the time the elementary bus rolls in until dinner. Bikes, trading cards, light sabers, imaginations. You can hear Trevor coming from several buildings away, his plastic training wheels grinding the asphalt.
“Who wants to race me? Who wants to race me? Who wants to race me?”
The kid’s got persistence; I’ll give him that. He asked about 18 times before a sympathetic (annoyed?) fellow explained:
“No one wants to race you, okay?”
They had their thing going on when he arrived and no one was interested in his “challenge.”
He wasn’t phased. He raced up & down the lot on his own until a couple sweet girls came over, accepted his challenge and then let him win. Bless their hearts.
Eventually, though, he tuned in to what the huddle was doing. Actually, not as much doing as what they were saying. Something about butts. Repeating it over and over and over. Trevor decided that was his way into the pack. So he said it, too.
I was the only mom present and reminded my son that wasn’t a word I wanted him using. (Yes, I see the hypocrisy in me putting it to press!)
In an instant his copycat phrase was gone and he was righteously indignant as he sing-songed:
“They’re saying a bad wuh-urd… They’are saying a bad wuh-urd.”
How quickly a person can turn. How swiftly do I shift from imitating the behavior of those around me to denouncing it? From copying to condemning.
And Christians are the worst. We are, like, known for that kind of “transformation.”
My previous behavior or opinion is not obviously identical as that which I now passionately condemn, but the underlying need and desire might very well be.
I don’t catch it, though, because I am inclined to swim on the surface. Noting the behavior, the choice, the words. Forgetting there is a human being beneath all conduct. Forgetting that under it all, there is fear. There is desire. There is insecurity. There is hurt. There is optimism. There is core belief. That which drives what I – and they – do/say/think.
People change “what” they do rather easily. But the “why” they do it often stays the same. The hoped-for result remains sneakily intact.
Acceptance. Assurance. Deliverance. Confidence. Attention. Comfort. Hope. Fullness. Joy. Provision.
What do you most intensely condemn? What do you passionately attack (even if only in the quiet of your own mind or the safety of your own facebook page)? What might drive that behavior or opinion in the human being that represents it? Do you have that same driving force within you?
Can you see the human being peeking out from behind that fear, that shame, that anger?
Although we are each wildly unique in our experiences, passions, delights, criticisms and paths, we are comrades in the inner story we represent. The playing field is leveled completely. Jesus died for each one.
To offer acceptance. Assurance. Deliverance. Attention. Comfort. Hope. Fullness. Joy. Provision.
Everyone seeks it. Some of us have found it in Jesus. Some think they have found it in the vast array of things our 2016 world offers them – including the many things we Christians are champions at condemning.
But if you look past the behavior and see the human being peeking out behind it, you might just find yourself some solidarity. You might stop disputing this ways and that ways (yes, even ones you can justify to the finish) and find someone who, too, is plagued by fear, isolated by shame, stricken by pain, driven by desire.
You might make a friend.
How quickly the sinner tends to become the Pharisee. There is no beauty in that. No glory of God. But, there is beauty in the sinner befriending the sinner and experiencing the grace, comfort and truth of the Savior together.
“Who wants to race with me? Who wants to race with me? Who wants to race with me?”