I really could be dead wrong about some of this, but I am certain of this much: Living in God’s creation – and thus treating it as God’s (the property of a loving Creator God) – gives me the opportunity to explore his love. Let me say that again: e-x-p-l-o-r-e his love. The bits I am wrong about are not something to be ashamed of or count as some kind of sin. As long as I prayerfully, carefully, respectfully honor God every step of the way, looking to his word for his lead, I am free to explore, to try and try again. (I mean, I know not to kill, to lie, to take the Name in vain etc… but that still leaves lots of love and creation to explore.) To decide one bit is not going to work out as I’d hoped, but another bit might. All that is okay, as long as I can look God in the face and smile with integrity. It opens me up to a different kind of real.
I am opened up to this view of exploration largely from observing AND participating in the lives of my kids. I look them in the face and talk sweet baby-talk, and then I see the little face respond to me in vulnerable love. I put food in the mouth, and it is remarkable how deep and how often the cries of life calm like Jesus stilling a storm. I especially enjoy the experience of taking a baby by the hands and aiding them to stand up on their own two feet for the first, second, third and four-hundredth time. The wobbly little dance – exploring their new part in creation – is divine. I love the smile we share AS the child discovers what standing feels like. Eyeball to eyeball, humanity is transferred from one to the other, but really we both find new depths actually.
In all of these little exercises, and hundreds more, the child holds my hand, looks into my face, mirrors my joy as she fumbles and foibles and eventually masters a new step in life. Every tiny second of this experience is like a day or a 1000 years. Every second of this experience burns deep neural pathways in my brain and that of the child. Each second of this experience is a life-giving little party. Each second of this experience is play and exploration for both of us. Each second of this experience heaven invades earth! Each second of this experience humanity is formed from the dirt and Spirit is breathed between people.
This is what I mean when I speak of exploring God’s love – God’s creation.
This may seem limited to babies and small children, but that is an arbitrary limit we of little faith – we of little imagination – place on ourselves. When I feed a child, I don’t leave her to eat alone. I either hold the bottle or spoon feed her as we talk and play, as we smile and love. The child eats off my plate. The child looks longingly at my food, and I share it. The mother’s breast is the primal meal – you can’t get more intimate than that, of course, but I find my role is quite close actually. And yet even that is a pale imitation of the King’s Feast at the Table of the Lord. “Behold! I stand at the door and knock… If you open up, I will come in and eat/party with you….” (Rev. 3:20). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation!” (II Cor. 5:17). “Behold! I am making all things new… (Rev. 21:5). “When you throw a party, invite the poor… and you will be blessed BECAUSE they cannot repay you!” (Luke 14:13). Yes, we need to stretch the imagination and include adults as well as children in the process of exploring new creation. Jesus, it would seem, shows favor to the children on the one hand (Matt. 19:14), but to the poor on the other (Luke 1:53).
And here is where we soooooo often get this wrong, when thinking about the poor. We set out to turn these poor people who cannot repay into people who can repay SO THAT they will THEN be fit to party with. But that is not what Jesus says. And it seems soooooo counterintuitive to trust him because that would suggest we might not (after all) try to FIX the problem. But that is not living in God’s creation, that is wisdom from somewhere else. Probably the same source of wisdom that gave us Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Rather, we need to hold the hands of these folks and eat with them, looking into the face of NEW CREATION as we all learn to stand on our own feet (however long that takes and however many missteps that might involve and whatever end result that might look like that we had not expected!)
Yeah. Even the babies crap all over my love. But it never occurs to anyone that we should not be patient with them as they do it.
Am I suggesting we just enjoy being crapped on? No. I am not. Certainly we should count it a joy when we encounter trials (James 1:2), but I doubt seriously that is the trial James had in mind. Nevertheless, it goes with children and with the poor both. We might as well accept that. But in both cases, with much patience and time and care the love we give transforms them and us. And though there are differences in how we love adults and children, the commonalities are important too.
As I said above, “I am opened up to this view of my participation in creation largely from observing AND participating in the lives of my kids. I look them in the face and talk sweet baby-talk…” and so forth. Well, I have personal experience that I for one cannot deny where I have participated and observed street homeless people explore God’s grace as we partied on the streets, in the alleys, and in the parks. I can’t help but recall the first Lubbock’s Parade of Homeless event when dozens of homeless folx turned out to worship on the street and entice cars of passers by to “Honk if you love Jesus!” We passed out neon colored shirts that grabbed attention, then we shared communion on the busy street corner and attracted the outreach ministers from Aldersgate Methodist Church to join us! And I cherish how as we bedded down in the park that night, Agent Zero actually said, “Welcome to my place”.
Agent Zero and a couple of his friends had seen our party and actually walked over 3 miles to find us at the park where we spent the night. Think of it. These guys saw a worship service in progress and found out we were moving it to a different park 3 miles away, so they walked for over an hour to join us! When was the last time you ever heard of someone walking miles on end for a chance to join others in worship? Yeah, and they pushed a Wal-mart buggy filled with odds-n-ends the whole way! And I am saying, you aren’t likely to imagine such dedication, but I have seen it with my own eyes. And I really think, based on the explorations I have made, that celebrating Jesus in those babies and in those homeless folx puts you in a different kind of reality.