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