I don’t want to go outside

23 Jun

My shoulders tensed slightly in anticipation of the coming drama. It had been played out enough times before for me to know the script… *Johnny would fist his hands, and tauten his muscles… a plump, little slouched figure standing in what my bodybuilding friend would call the crab pose! I loved working with these kids. It was a special class in vacation Bible school. Special because its number was fewer, and the challenge different. And somehow, year after year I got slotted with these kids.

I had little or no training. I was an undergrad, or starting, or finishing. So I don’t know why except that I did.

I knew the routine too. We would tell them once, twice… usually a couple more times. It seemed like the same tone would work, because it was familiar.

Johnny, go outside and play. It’s recess!

NO. Johnny was NOT going anywhere. Uh uh. He stubbornly refused to go get the snacks and drink the church provided for every child, he refused to play running-and-catching or any other game. He refused to play with me either. He sat on the black and white triangle-squares of marble that tiled the floor of the side altar. It wasn’t the aisle – it was a little chapel to the side with an enclosed seating area that made it easy for us to keep the church’s very youngest members.

I took in a deep breath and said it again:

Johnny, go outside and play. I nudged him this time.

And I went over the routine, familiar, slow and dreading a tantrum.

It didn’t come. Instead, Johnny, still with his chubby arms flexed and taut, lifted his head a little and asked:

Why?

Stumbling a little, I explained: It’s recess. Go outside – as if the higher my voice, the more sense it made – and play with your friends.

I stressed the friends; I hoped it would be incentive.

Don’t you want to play with your friends?

He shook his head and I was giving up because it appeared that he understood and he had made his choice. Anyway, the food was on a little paper plate and one of the older kids had brought it to us, at my request.

But Johnny wasn’t finished with me. He had an answer to my most recent question.

But – but Jesus is my friend.

My tears were quick. It was what we had been learning after all – that He is our friend. Not a stranger, not just a distant God but – and I had told them – that He was really everything our hearts could desire, the bestest friend, and He didn’t need telling twice about anything we wanted or that hurt us or excited us. And He absolutely LOVED spending time with us – wouldn’t you? If you loved someone? And they’d all nodded their heads – wisely, dutifully.

Afterwards, I did cry. With my friends, in the cathedral’s garden after the children left. Johnny was minimally verbal but very aware of the most important lesson. And he seemed to talk quite well with the holy Spirit.

Sometimes I forget.

I want to go outside.

I want to leave the altar, shut the door on it, put my shoes back on and play the games.

I don’t remember my best friend – and he really is my best friend. And father, and lover and everything. And I am ridiculously lame about it showing it.

I want to fellowship with the church, and forget about the one we worship, and why we’re one.

I want to pursue his ministry – and I forget to pursue Him.

Or let Him pursue me.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  
I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.
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