Today at ‘holiday club’, we were teaching the kiddywinks about how Christ came to save sinners. Not long back, i.e. a couple of days ago, if you would’ve asked me to teach little ones what it meant to sin, I would have balked, cried ‘social control’ and run away. I underestimate little ones. It turns out they know with a knee-jerk ‘who cares about the nuance’ rapidity what it means to act unjustly. And no one knows better what it means to not have a hierarchy of sin. To the question ‘how do we mess up God’s world’, we were given the replies: 1, pollution. 2, cutting down trees. 3, making bad choices. 4,litter. 5,war. 6, hurting animals. And then followed a ridiculously poignant demonstration of the Fall. A shiny clean, glass bowl. Label four tins of food with the above responses. Then, into the bowl, add a tin of cold beans. Then a tin of mushy peas. Then a tin of custard. Then some unidentifiable black gunk. And voila, how we treat God in all its stomach-turning tangibility.
But, as we all know, there’s a twist in the tale. The bowl doesn’t get washed up by a God who crosses His marigolded arms while He futter mutters. Add a tiny plastic figure into the mix. ‘What’s worth saving in all this mess?’ Invite the bravest to plunge his hand into the gloop to find ‘the treasure’. (The best fathomable demonstration of Philippians 2:6-8 “ [Christ] who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”). And thus, mankind offered a way out from all the sticky wickets he has made. The kids loved it. My internal woah-meter was all alight.
Then I come home and read about a rape. The rape of a 10 year old girl. By a 14 year old boy, under the influence of online porn. And then I read of how 20% of girls under 12 refuse to leave the house without a full face of make-up. And my heart breaks. These tinies, with their hearts so keenly aware of how the world should be, grow up to be let down. It isn’t then the environment and their pets who alone are covered with baked bean mush. It’s them and their bright eyes.
It seems these kiddywinks are encouraged to progress from seeing the bad (injustice) in the world to viewing reality as not good (satisfying) enough. I vividly remember in the good old days of mid-teenage insecurity watching The Sex Education show in which teenage boys were asked to choose from a line-up of breasts. They all chose the cosmetically enhanced pair. I stood bare in front of our bathroom mirror and was suddenly filled with a sense of my inadequacy and the thought that, as a result, I would never be able to trust a member of the male sex again. Surely, they would invariably be comparing me to Porn Barbie who, through the simplifier of the two-dimensional screen, appears laden down with collagen rather than insecurities and maintenance issues. Porn Barbie doesn’t cry/ menstruate/ have off days/ sag/ get stretchmarks. This is the competition we present to the little girls. And this is the object we tell little boys they are entitled to. And in between the two we breed immense distrust. Because if you’re not the image of hard masculinity and I’m not plastic fantastic, then we’re both just biding time before our respective façades crumble.
But this wasn’t God’s plan for His world.
Where we often laud the greatest distances from reality, God concerns Himself with the deepest depths of the really-real.
1 Samuel 16:7: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
I wish I had a clear-cut, worldwide action-plan to offer. I wish I could keep stoking the vastness of the little one’s dreams. (If you ever want to know how to pray big, ask a tiny). I wish I could encourage the desire for each other’s hearts and not their body parts (are they really that great anyway, I mean, the vast majority of us have one or other set so surely the novelty has worn off?).
But realistically, right now, all I can do is pray for more of you God. More of you and less of us. More of your penetrating eye, and fewer of our zap-it-in-the-microwave, buy-it-on-Amazon-with-one-click, instant-gratification view of relationships. More of you and fewer of our cold baked beans.