My story and the Mogwai’s story

80¬īs Cinema

Those who remember the golden years of the 1980’s world of cinema will bring to mind the tasteful and timeless hairdos, the seamless and realistic CGI and the startlingly lifelike animatronics.¬† And if, as you may, you sense a slight lack of sincerity in my praise of 80’s cinematography, let me appease you with a single word:

Gizmo.

OK, so the animatronic star of the film “Gremlins” may have had eyeballs that looked like cheap marbles and fur that looked like it had been inherited from a B-list teddy bear, but he was, for all that, inescapably cute. That, at least, is the view that Dominic (7) formed when he discovered Gizmo (as you may recall, one of a race known as “Mogwai”)

Gizmo became his yardstick of adorability, and he began asking, day after day: “Am I as cute for you as a¬†Mogwai?”

“Yes,” I reassured him “you are even cuter.”

Comparisons

For a time, this response satisfied him.  Eventually, however, there came a day when the conversation became much more analytical.

GizmoDominic: “Daddy, am I as cute for you as a¬†Mogwai?”

Me: “Yes Dominic, you are even cuter.”

Dominic: “Oh.¬† How many times cuter?”

Me: “Um…a thousand times cuter!”

Dominic: “Oh.¬† And how many times cuter than a Mogwai is Oliver?”

Suddenly something which had been a search for reassurance of my unrelenting love for him had become a competition for reassurance at the expense of his brother.

Whose story?

There’s a throwaway line in one of C. S. Lewis’ books (“The Horse and his Boy”) which I’ve always found arresting. As with so many stories, we reach the part where all the loose ends that have puzzled the main character are brought together into an explanation that makes sense. Eager to get as much information as she can, she asks for an explanation of what happened to her friend too, and is given the response:

“Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

I doubt I am alone in sometimes wanting to compare myself with other people. On my more honest days, I might admit that I’d like reassurance of how much more my heavenly father approves of me than he does of them. That’s what happens when I try to reassure myself that my theology is right and theirs is wrong. ¬†And that’s what happens when I berate myself that others seem to do so much more for God than I do.

But in reality, his unrelenting love for me is enough. That is my story.

When other people tell their stories, it can – and should be immensely encouraging. ¬†If I’m to be doing any better than comparing myself to a Mogwai, I need to allow myself to be encouraged by others’ stories without letting that interfere with the fact that God’s story with me is one of incomparable and uncomparing love. ¬†That is enough.

© Text 2014 Paul Brownnutt

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Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Today’s post was brought to you by Luke 18:9-14

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The beautiful flower of God, and the Wendy house

The Wilderness

Estate agents are famed for their creativity when advertising a house.¬† “Within walking distance of shops” assumes your name is Ranulph Fiennes. “Purpose built” reminds you that yes, the¬†apartment¬†is part of a lifeless block of identical shoeboxes.

And when I eventually come to sell this house the estate agents will, with a similar level of creativity,¬† describe it has having a “well-proportioned garden”. ¬†This is because they are not used to including the words “wilderness” or “jungle” in their advertisements.

When to care about crocuses

God's beautiful flower

The beautiful flower of God

Now, Oliver recently ventured into the “wilderness” I refer to, carrying a spade. ¬†Presently he returned to show us a flower-bulb he had found. ¬†You may already know that I cannot tell a daffodil bulb from a crocus bulb from a daisy bulb. ¬†OK, I actually do know that daisies don’t come from bulbs, but that’s about as far as my expertise goes.

So I asked Oliver what flower it was. ¬†With a simplicity I could never hope to replicate, he replied: “It’s the beautiful flower of God”. ¬†Which made me realise what an idiot I had been to care whether it was a daffodil, a crocus or a daisy. ¬†It was¬†beautiful, and it was God’s.

Defences

Off trudged the intrepid Oliver into the wilderness once more, and for about twenty minutes I caught occasional glimpses of planks of wood being dragged to and fro. ¬†Eventually he came back in and announced that “The beautiful flower of God” was safe.

Closer inspection revealed that the wood had been used to fortify what was originally a Wendy house of sorts, with the beautiful flower of God inside. Each door, each window and (for good measure) the roof had been carefully covered with a series of planks of wood.

Now the invading barbarian hordes would never harm the beautiful flower of God inside.

“That’s a shame Oliver,” I commented. “Now nobody can see how¬†beautiful¬†it is.”

Barricades

If you believe popular culture, you’d think God’s toddlers see it as our mission in life to erect similar barricades to seeing the pure, unalloyed beauty of ¬†God.

I don’t think this is genuinely the mission for most of us, but whether it’s my mission in life, I know I struggle allowing God to stick up for himself. ¬†I can cling to the layers of interpretation that the church has built up over two tedious¬†millennia¬†of theology – valuable though some of it may be – rather than risk approaching God (and his word) directly. ¬†I can insist on explaining a sanitised version of God to friends, rather than risking them trampling my flimsy assumptions about him.

A comparison to Oliver’s defences is imperfect, as God isn’t as delicate as either a daffodil or a crocus (or, if you must, a daisy). ¬†Protecting God is more like protecting a rosebush. ¬†Or perhaps a man-eating lion.

But the point remains that in allowing myself (and others) to risk questioning assumptions about God; to discover him directly and let go of the barricades we treasure, I stand more of a chance of discovering the beauty behind the rotten planks of wood.

 

© 2012 Paul Brownnutt

 
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Being God's Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

The vindication of the giraffe

This is  a follow-up to my last note on the Safari:

It is, to an extent, the opposing viewpoint.¬† But I think it’s important to hold the two in balance.

For in fact, the giraffe was right, and the cheetah was bang out of order.

You see, for anyone who’s ever had a giraffe’s nose through their car window, you’ll know these things are big.¬† And I’m not talking about the kind of big you think when you see a horse up close and suddenly notice how fortunate it is that they only eat grass.¬† I’m talking scale that up by a substantial factor, stick it on legs longer than I am tall (and appearing capable of comfortably kicking through the skin of our¬† car, should the mood take them).¬† Then stick it on a neck so tall that it can actually bend back down to the ground to drink out of whatever it happens to be drinking from today.¬† And with all that, the huge and muscly torso somehow manages to look small and insignificant in comparison.

Make no mistake:  you are not about to confuse one of these things for a marmoset or a koala.

And there’s the point.¬† It doesn’t have to DO anything to be a giraffe.¬† It doesn’t have to run like a cheetah at 70mph, or join the wolf-pack in tearing your spare tyre to shreds.¬† It just IS, looming benignly over every other single creature.

And while it’s right that I should heed the cheetah’s wise words and do something useful about all the issues it kindly reminded me of, I should do so remembering this: That irrespective of what I do or don’t do, God has re-created me, valuing me and adoring me and putting his stamp on me as unmistakably as a giraffe.

© 2009 Paul Brownnutt

[Originally Published 24th August 2009]