Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

We never outgrow God

Do you have deep friendships? Not just casual acquaintances–but real, deep, heart-felt friendships. I’m so fortunate to have so many people in my life who I can call friends–more than friends, family. And it’s been that way for decades–the same people. How many people can say that?

Last night, two of my oldest, dearest friends came out to visit me and my roomie, and as we sat on my rickety old couch and munched on tacos and watched Doctor Who, I couldn’t help but remember a time more than 20 years ago when the four of us sat around on the floor, playing games and dreaming about the future.

As I marveled, I realized we haven’t run out of things to talk about yet. If anything, we’ve got more to talk about now than we did when we were in third grade.

As we’ve grown as individuals, we’ve grown as friends. Our relationships with each other have grown wider and deeper and stronger, to the point that even years of separation or thousands of miles of distance can’t put a dent in our friendship. We just pick up where we left off. And if human beings can have relationships like that, why do we think that God is any different?

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 139:7-12.

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
    but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

I decided to believe in Jesus when I was seven years old on Palm Sunday in 1990. Granted, that’s the day I remember stepping out of my pew and walking the aisle, but Jesus was a part of my life every day before then. I’ve been following Jesus for a long time, though I’m not sure I really began to live for Him until I was older. But I never doubted Him. And I never stopped talking to Him.

We’ve always had a fairly casual talking relationship, me and Jesus. I just tell Him everything that’s on my mind. And what amazes me is that I’ve never encountered a problem in life that He wasn’t big enough to handle.

Not anything has been bigger than Him. When I was little, that was expected. Everything was bigger than me. But as a grown up, you’d think I run into trouble every day that would stump Him. But it doesn’t. And it’s not that God has gotten any bigger. Just my understanding of what He is capable of and how much He’s done for me.

Like my friendships, which have grown deeper and stronger and have matured as I have, my relationship with God has grown too. Or maybe it would be better said that He’s stayed the same and I’ve just come to realize how enormous He is.

One of my favorite parts of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is the brief interaction Aslan the Lion, the picture of Christ, has with Lucy Pevensie in Prince Caspian.

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.
~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

I could put myself in Lucy’s shoes there. Every year, I grow older, and my troubles get bigger and more complex as the digits in my age continue to tick upward. I didn’t really appreciate this little scene between Aslan and Lucy until I was old enough to understand how true it is.

I’ll never outgrow Him. I’ll never reach the point where I can do life on my own. I’ll never reach the point where I don’t need Him every second of every day. Life is too big for me, but it’s not too big for Him. And with Him, there’s nothing I can’t do.

And just like my earthly friends, I never run out of things to tell Him. I never run out of conversations to have with Him. I never exhaust myself telling Him how wonderful He is and how thankful I am for all He’s done for me.

No matter where I go, He’s there. No  matter how fast I run, He runs faster. No matter how much I think I know, He knows more. There’s no place I can go to escape Him (as if I wanted to), because He’s everywhere. And there’s no level of wisdom I can attain that He hasn’t already mastered.

Are you a grown up? Think you’ve got life all figured out? Well, join the club. And realize, like the rest of us, that life is so much bigger and stranger and wilder than you can ever imagine, and there’s no way you can be prepared for every eventuality. The only way you’ll make it is to have someone bigger than you to rely on when the time comes.

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Go with the bubblegum

I went to the dentist yesterday. I understand needing to go, especially on a regular basis, but going to the dentist is never fun. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t handle scraping well. Any kind of scraping. I shudder even when I scratch someone’s back because the vibrations of fabric on my fingernails send shivers up my spine, so having a dental hygienist scraping around on my teeth with a sharpened spike is torture.

But it’s a necessary discomfort. And I am blessed to have insurance that provides for two dental checkups a year. But something really excellent happened this time–and it wasn’t that I didn’t have cavities.

The dentist had different flavored polishes!

For years and years, all you could have was mint if you were a grownup. Mint. Mint. But not even good mint. Mint that tasted like it’d been rolled in sand and left in the sun too long. Bleck. Only kids got a choice of flavors. But now? Now you can choose cherry and strawberry and raspberry and a host of other flavors–including bubblegum.

Bubblegum! A dentist hadn’t used a bubblegum-flavored polish on my teeth since I was a little girl. But as excited as I got about that, I thought that maybe I should choose cherry. Or maybe I shouldn’t even be excited. Maybe I should just go with mint. Isn’t that what a real grownup would do?

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 18:16-17.

Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

Where do adults get the idea that we have to act so grown up all the time? I think part of the reason some people love kids so much is that they don’t hold their emotions back. When they’re excited, you know they’re excited. When they’re sad, you know they’re sad. With a grownup, it’s hard to tell because grownups have had years and years of practice in hiding what they really feel and think.

Why? Because it’s childish to get emotional over things. At least, that’s what we’re told.

Children are real. They’re open and honest and genuine. Sure, there are some corkers who figured out how to lie and manipulate at an early age, but that’s learned behavior. Most kids I know are genuinely honest little people. They’ll tell me exactly what they think.

I miss that as an adult, especially in the big bad grownup world of politics and corporate careers. And I don’t understand why we have to give up that openness and honesty as adults. I don’t see why we have to lose the innocence and the excitement of childhood just because we’ve had some of our dreams come crashing down.

I think that’s why adults lose the joy of childhood. Children are idealistic. They dream and play and imagine, and then they grow up and realize that the world is broken and their parents don’t have all the answers and their teachers don’t know everything and they won’t always be rewarded for doing the right thing. How else do you react when you realize those things? It’s a lot easier to stop believing, to stop imagining, to stop dreaming, especially when it seems less and less likely that your dreams will come true.

Well, here’s something awesome. If you’re a Christ-follower, you never have to stop dreaming. Just because you have a dream and it doesn’t come true right now, you don’t have to give up dreaming altogether. That’s one thing amazing about God. He wants to fulfill our dreams, but they have to come true according to His plan and His design. We just have to be patient.

So don’t be ashamed of childlike faith. Don’t be afraid of childlike excitement, especially when God is doing something amazing. People may look at you funny. People may think you’re nuts. Don’t worry about it. Deep down inside they’re just wishing they knew God well enough to find the same kind of joy you have. And if you get the opportunity, don’t hesitate to share it with them.

And the next time you’re at the dentist and you get the opportunity to have bubblegum-flavored tooth polish, do it. I did. And it made my day.