Someone leaving church Easter Sunday asked about my boys, musing ‘I bet you’ve learned all kinds of things about God from them.’
And that got me thinking.
Which got me writing: Top Ten Things My Kids Have Taught Me About God
#6: Jesus is like Gandalf
A few weeks ago my boys watched the first 5.5 hour installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. The movie seemed to last longer than Coldplay’s last album, but it did elicit a debate of almost ontological urgency:
Could Gandalf, the staff-wielding, death-conquering wizard of Middle Earth, defeat even Jesus, the sandal-wearing carpenter from Nazareth?
Begun as I pressed stop on the DVD player, the debate continued upstairs, occasionally interrupted by the gurgling and spitting of their toothbrushing.
On the one hand, Alexander noted, Gandalf defeated the whole Orc Army at Helm’s Deep- pronounced ‘Him’s Deep’ by X.
‘Yeah but…’ Gabriel countered with his Socratic logic, ‘Jesus DEFEATED (with emphasis on the -ed) the Devil AND came back from the dead.’
‘But God raised Jesus from the grave’ X replied, as though the better question in question was whether God could beat up Gandalf.
‘Duh, Jesus IS God.’
Omitting the therefore, Gabriel continued: ‘If Jesus is God, Jesus could beat up Gandalf, Ironman and Batman put together. Jesus is awesome.’
‘And he loves all of us’ X said, sidestepping his rhetorical defeat.
This is but one ‘for instance’ of a conversation thread that runs like a seam through our life together.
On some days, the discourse turns more speculative:
‘If Jesus was a tribute in the Hunger Games, do you think he would win…without killing any of the other tributes?
Or would he volunteer to die for them and defeat the whole HG system?’
On other days, the conversation turns on a casual observation:
‘Joseph is kinda like Alfred. He’s not Jesus’ real Father but he takes care of Jesus just like Alfred took care of Bruce Wayne.’
Maybe this is all a consequence of my boys having a preacher for a father. But I don’t think so.
Maybe it’s the predictable result of my having given each of them the Action Bible, a graphic novel version of scripture replete with square-jawed men and women with hefty…ahem…endowments.
It could be either but I tend to think it’s because they’re kids.
Jesus says in the Gospel that if we want to have any chance of comprehending, knowing or getting close to God then we need to become like little children.
Usually we interpret that as meaning we need to become innocent like children are innocent. Unflinchingly kind as children are kind.
I think that’s patronizing. I also wonder if it’s wrong.
He hangs out with the wrong people. He upsets the right people. He likes to party. He has magic powers. He takes all our cooties and puts them on himself. Bad guys are out to get him and even when they kill him and it looks like Jesus has lost…
HE COMES BACK.
To my boys, Jesus is as contrary as Tony Stark. He’s as complicated as Bruce Wayne. He’s timeless in a Wolverine way and still, somehow, he’s as unremittingly kind as Superman.
Plus, there aren’t any love interests to mess up the plot.
In other words, he’s a superhero.
And superheroes, with the exception of the Flash, are never boring.
Yet BORING, God forgive us, is exactly what so many of us grown-ups make Jesus.
To my boys Jesus is on par in the interesting category with Nick Fury; meanwhile, most adults- to say nothing of most pastors- turn Jesus into a bland, bearded version of Bill Moyers, someone so nice and unoffensive it’s impossible to imagine why anyone would ever want to kill him.
But here’s just one reason why people like us would want to kill someone like Jesus:
Jesus says between you and me and my boys, the Kingdom of Heaven goes to them every time.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
As a parent, I know full well that kids aren’t as innocent as we like to pretend, and anyone who’s spent time on a school bus or a playground knows they’re not automatically and reliably kind to everyone.
But tell any kid about a dude who walks on water, brings a little girl back to life and dropkicks death’s door and they’ll think that dude is awesome.
So thanks to my kids, I now wonder if this is what Jesus meant about how we grown-ups need to change.
Because in my house, to “become like children” is to think Jesus is kick-&^% awesome.
So awesome, in fact, it would never occur to them that they should be hesitant, reluctant, or embarrassed to tell someone else about Jesus.
That would be as silly as being shy to tell your friends how cool Captain America is.