There came a time when I was too old for the Children's moment.
I know that sounds ridiculous. Of course that time would eventually come. The only children that don't grow out of those programs are tragic reminders of nature's cruelty.
I just didn't want to give it up when my time came. It was nearly the only way I could be part of the corporate worship. Just, no one told me I was done. The day the church decided I was to put childish things away, I was told to sit by a matriarch of the church. (My Dad was doing something else. Might have had Elder duties, might have been in the choir.) When the pastor called the children forward, I began to rise, but she held my arm and told me to stay.
I think I stayed. The problem is, I've dreamed that moment multiple times since then, and in those dreams I always pulled my arm free and ran to the front. I loved this matriarch. I remember that. I loved them all. Yet, in this dream she was always terrifying. She was keeping me from something I loved, even if the time had come to put it away.
There came a time when I was too old for the Children's moment.
I pushed myself in other areas. I joined everything I could join. I couldn't be a child, and I couldn't be an adult. I was something in the middle.
I needed to sing
I'm an adequate singer, but a singer that belted every note. I was like that kid from the movie "Prancer." I unapologetically sang the hymns with zeal.
I felt there was a song that only belonged to me, and I was supposed to sing it. I just didn't know what that song was, so I sang anything that told a story. When I found Bette Midler's "From a Distance," I thought I found my opus. In reality, I had found the theme. I was surrounded by darkness, hate; destruction. The harmony wasn't where I was, it was somewhere else. There's something pure, valid; good- from a distance.
I decided I was going to go after that purity and goodness.
That's all well and good when you are doing it between being a kid and adult. I was safe. I held no power. The more I began to learn more about this song of mine, the more dangerous I got.
This song doesn't have a physical tune. When people saw me sing, they were watching me taking back my agency.
Jesus on the chaotic sea
My very first sermon illustration I grasped and remembered:
Once there were three ministers sitting on a boat. Who those ministers are doesn't matter. Just know it's two denominations/types you like and one you relentlessly mock. They were fishing, when one you liked realized they were out of bait. Quickly, he got up and walked across the water, got the bait and came back.
While the first you liked was on shore, the second realized he should have asked him to grab a water while he was over there. So, when the first returns the second begrudgingly gets up, walks across the water to get a bottle of water, and comes back.
The third, the one everyone makes the foil, sees the two walking and asks, "How did you do that?" One of the two reply, "You just walk." She looks wide eyed and innocent at the water. She gets up and joyfully drops her foot on the water, and falls in completely. The first says to the second, "Perhaps we should have told her where the rocks were."
You have no idea how many times I sat at a dock and placed my feet on the water like at any time Christ would ask me to come over and just look from a new perspective. How many times in my early childhood I loved those ice patches with bubbly water underneath, because I could pretend. (Then gleefully giggling when the ice broke, because that was fun.)
Did you ever wonder why Jesus decided to just visit the water? After all, the point of Jesus walking on water is Jesus, not the water. Added to that, I used to wonder how the Disciples dropped everything and followed Jesus. More so now than when I was a kid. I have family. Obligations. More than the Disciples stopping everything and following Christ, why did Jesus take them away? I think we've glorified the minister who can easily leave his wife and kids for the ministry. It's a grotesque image, in my mind. An unfair depiction of our call as Disciples and Apostles of Christ.
I'm too good at letting go.
There are people who have addictive personalities, non-addictive personalities and those in-between. I have a non-addictive personality. I can quit, give up, and throw away almost anything. If a doctor told me to give up watermelon (my absolute favorite fruit) for the rest of my life or I'd die- I'd sigh and give it up. Sound marvelous, doesn't it? That's until you realize the opposite side of it. I can cut people out. I can leave a community and not think twice. I still mourn certain friendships in those communities, but I don't mourn the community itself. Between adulthood and giving up children's moment, I was forcibly taken away from so much to the point that I was numbed to giving up all together. It's both a gift and curse. (I'm far more aware of how it curses me.)
That said, I believe what Jesus asks us to leave behind is the stuff.
"But we need this stuff!" you say.
No, you really don't. You don't need the cathedrals; the pomp and circumstance. You don't need the ancient organ or killer refrain on the guitar. You don't need that addictive smell of the old hymnals, or the cantatas. Put away those childish things.
I get it. You see the collection of things and you know how hard it was to collect that debris. You patched it together like a lifeboat. Think of how helpful it could all be on the next leg of Christ's journey. Well, how much is all that stuff helping you right now? Many of your symbols are actually a detractor, and a trigger for real trauma suffered by those things.
I really do get it. It's easy for me to hear a call and just go without concern for whether that call is on solid ground or chaotic water... chaotic water...
Hmm. The ancient Israelites believed the Earth was where God's created order resided, and the oceans were where the uncreated chaos lived. To go to Christ in the ocean is an invitation to a new creation- to create from the chaos. To give it all up and follow Christ, is understanding God already gave up the solid ground because it's no longer solid for so many.
Is it scary? Yes!
Is it dangerous? Absolutely!
Things have no meaning without Christ. To be in the middle of nothing, or to go to Christ on the water, I'll choose the waves every single time.
Walk on water.