The privilege to raise two young boys (5 and 2), has been incredible. At their ages, it is especially fun to see them build, draw, color, and create. On beautiful spring days they can be found playing in their sandbox on our back patio. Ninja Turtles rescue the princess, and everything is a construction site. They have moved from very simple interactions to using their imaginations to create characters and storylines, good guys and bad guys. In many ways, they are fulfilling God’s intended purpose as established in the creation story of Genesis 2. As His mini-image bearers, they love to be king and creator of their own little world.
But what happens whenever this goes sideways? It can turn ugly, quickly, for a child who no longer wants to be bothered or who thinks their world is being threatened. I’ve lost track of how many times one of my boys has become frustrated with his brother, so he stands up and knocks down the whole castle – if he can’t play the way he wants to, no one can play with the toys!
As during many other moments during fatherhood, seeing my boys act in this way reminds me that I am no different. There is still a boy inside of me, in many ways. I too, navigate my days in an attempt to create, build, and manage. In fact, it would seem we are all this way. In all of us there is a childlikeness. Walt Disney agreed, “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.” So it’s no surprise, sadly, I too struggle whenever things in my world do not go my way.
In the past few weeks, as my physical world has been dramatically reduced, I find myself struggling with my attitude. This struggle has produced a surprising hypocrisy. I attempt to keep my same daily routine, emphasizing spiritual growth and development by way of prayer and Bible study. I honestly don’t even mind if my wife or one of my boys happens to see me (counts as double Christian-points, right?) But then whenever something doesn’t go my way – I read a troubling article, I get frustrated because I am not out playing golf, I can’t drink my honey almond flat white inside a Starbucks, I have more questions than answers, each day has a new set of inconveniences – it’s as if I stand up and knock down the castle God has been building with me. I suddenly don’t want to trust Him or allow Him to lead, guide, and direct me. Why can’t I go back to the days whenever I did what a good Christian was supposed to do and then God made life easy and comfortable? The days whenever God and I were playing well together.
But the truth is it was never this way. Hebrews 9 is a sneaky good passage about our purpose in life – why and how it should be. The author writes of how the sandbox in which we once played only led to destruction. But there is hope. The hope came in the form of a man named Jesus. Verse 11 reads, “Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come [and good things to come].” He did the impossible. The Bible goes on to teach that He entered once for all into the holy places. He did this in order that we may break free of a relationship with Him by way of works, but rather by way of grace through faith. This is great news! While I may wish my relationship with God were transactional – I do this for You, You do this for me – praise God it is no longer this way! I could never live up to the standard of holiness required for a relationship with God.
The passage concludes by describing a world in which we once existed in relationship with God by way of sacrifices and ceremonial atonement. The author writes that if these acts of human hands at one point were satisfactory, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” If we thought we were happy in our sandbox before Jesus came in, be of good courage that now our hearts will truly be satisfied in His presence.
As a Christ-follower, or especially as a husband/father leading his family, it is not enough to have your Bible open at the kitchen table. (I’m guilty of literally responding in the flesh to a son while my Bible is open on the desk next to me. Talk about a mixed message!!) The atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was not in order for you to be saved and then be the god of your life. You have not been redeemed in order to do things your way. If we are sincerely saved with our faith and trust in Him, then our attitudes and our actions must proclaim this truth we believe. We cannot put on a façade. In these weeks of new abnormal, your family, friends, and co-workers need to see that you believe God is still King. We as His followers need to be about more than simply going through the motions or saying the right things. Experiences in life are not currently ideal, but that does not mean we’re allowed to kick down our castle and stomp away. Now more than ever we need to be men and women who trust God to purify our consciences from dead works and daily live to serve the living God with our lives.