Friday, November 22, 2013

Loving Never Never Land

Red. Green. Brown. Yellow. Melt in your mouth colors bolstered by rich chocolate interiors. The advertising promised they wouldn’t melt in your hand. No one in our family ever discovered if that was true or not. We ate them too quickly to give them a chance.

Some dads show their children how to hunt and fish. Others teach them how to shoot hoops or pitch a ball. My husband did neither of those things, which was okay because he taught them other things. He taught more by example than instruction.  He led them to a great appreciation for books, music, hard work, travel, adventure, and hospitality. He also imprinted his own obsessive love for M&M’s in the DNA of each of our children.

It is only natural then, that in addition to the five languages of love named by Gary Chapman, our family added a sixth. Right up there with words of affirmation and quality time, we considered M&M’s a language all its own. It was the perfect way to say thank you, to apologize or just to say I love you.

So it was with tender affection that our high school son handed his three-year-old sister a bag of M&M’s when he came home after school. I’m not sure why he had them, but I know that as much as he loved M&M’s, he loved his little sister more. He was responsible enough to tell her she could eat them after dinner.

If ever there was an instruction to challenge, this was the one. What did big brother know? Perhaps Daddy would give her a different answer. When that didn’t work, she tried Mommy. The answer was the same. “Wait until after dinner. It won’t be long now. It’s almost ready.”

The blonde ringlets that had been bouncing up and down as she careened from person to person stopped bouncing as she sat quietly on the sofa in apparent acceptance of the decision. It looked as if at any moment the curls themselves would hang straight in silent solidarity with her disappointment. The solitude lingered while the rest of the family went back to homework, the evening news and dinner preparations, glad the decision had been accepted and the situation forgotten.

“I’ve been thinking,” said the small voice from the sofa to her daddy across the room. “What is it, dear?” he replied. “I don’t ever want to grow up,” she said. “Why not?” he asked.

“I want to be just like Peter Pan and live in Never Never Land,” she explained earnestly. “May I be just like Peter Pan and not grow up?” “Sure, sweetheart. Whatever you want.” He smiled, knowing nature would take its course.

She continued, “But I’m worried about dinner. You know how eating good food makes me grow big and strong? Well, if I don’t want to grow up, then I need to stop eating dinner. Do I have to eat my dinner?”

It was easy for Daddy to agree even to this. After all, he knew that when the time came to eat, she would be hungry. So he said, “Of course not. Not if you don’t want to.” “Well then, if I’m not going to eat dinner so I can be like Peter Pan and live in Never Never Land, I'll just go ahead and eat my M&M’s.”

The thinking of this charming but crafty child reflects the attitude of many who are spiritually Peter Pan. They don’t want to mature—not if it means giving up the titillating sweets of worldly pleasure. Not if it means walking away from shallow thinking to pursue the meat of God’s word. The easy camaraderie of temporal companions is more tempting than pressing on to know God more fully.

If we are ready to move on from our spiritual Never Never Land, then we must consciously seek the things that nourish our souls. We must put away childish thinking and allow the Spirit who convicts of wrong and leads aright to grow us up. We must read God’s word so we can know his heart. We must plead God’s word and let its truth feed our hearts. We must heed God’s word so we can reflect Christ’s heart. In this matter of the heart, we must let his Spirit grow us up.

For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law. (Hebrews 5:12-14 Amplified)