Friday, November 14, 2014

You, Pretend

Sometimes I sing to my sons when we put them to sleep. If they are upset or restless I’ll try to soothe them with a children's church song. Over the years, Isaiah has picked up “Jesus Loves Me” and a few other songs and sometimes asks for me to sing them. I think it’s good for his developing theology to know of these types of arguably trite, but true lyrics.

The Story
A few months ago, we were still in the Midwest and my office was still connected with our kitchen. Having one’s office in the same space as one’s home was a blessing and a curse. As any Student Affairs professional will attest, the layout makes boundaries difficult. On this particular day, I had stepped into my office to accomplish minor task. I don’t remember what it was and it may not have even been directly work-related. More than likely I was responding to a short email or checking Facebook. Maybe I had remembered an interesting or clever observation I’d made earlier that day and I was taking a moment to post it on Facebook so all my friends could tell me I was funny. To set the stage here, the bottom line is:
I was busy, but I wasn’t doing anything important.

…In walks Isaiah.

My six-year-old son came into my office, playing his ukulele, and singing “Jesus Loves Me”. I smiled at him, of course, but I kept my attention on what I was doing.  He is cute, but he was distracting.
Wanting to play with me, and having the song on his mind, he paused his singing briefly and said,
“Papa, you pretend to be Jesus.”

Initially, I didn’t respond out loud. But I will not sugarcoat my internal response for you, dear reader of this blog. My first thought was,
“oh, shit.”

Pretend to be Jesus
Isaiah doesn’t know Jesus yet, but we, his parents, believe Jesus is a real, living, divine, person whom he can communicate, and one day, have a relationship with.  I want to communicate true facts and images about God to my children. I want to be a good enough father that they can, one day, imagine what The Father is like.
I want to model Jesus as much as I can, and in that moment, I was stuck. Isaiah doesn’t have a clue what it means to “pretend to be Jesus” but I do.
…And I didn’t want to get it wrong.

The first thing I said aloud (after my internal, reflexive, curse subsided) was,
“Just a second. Let me finish this real quick.”
I don’t want Isaiah to think that Jesus doesn’t have time for him. I don’t want him to think that Jesus finds Facebook or email more important than spending time with his children. I don’t want my son to think that Jesus only gives him part of his attention, part of his love and care.

I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t portraying Jesus until the exact moment that I said I was. I wanted to set the terms by which I would be perceived as taking on the role of Jesus.  “Don’t get confused…THIS is not Jesus… ok, ready, go! THIS is Jesus.”
And I spun my chair around.
And I focused.
And I played with my son.

Always About to Pretend
Too often it seems that the way I interact with my son is also the way I interact with my wife and my friends, with the entire world around me.
And it seems that most of our Christian culture engages the world like this.

Don’t look at me now; I’ll be like Christ in a minute.
Let me put away all my busyness. Let me take some time to be angry.
Let me be jealous and proud and spiteful and lustful.
Let me buy some new things. Let me watch a few seasons of my favorite show.
Let me make sure you know my views on every social and political issue.
Let me make a good impression so you think I’m cool, hip, and fashionable.
…and THEN watch me pretend; then watch me act like Jesus.

It doesn’t seem to be working.
Isaiah gets impatient, wanting his papa’s attention, and the world sees through the evangelical Christian act fairly easily. 

You, Pretend to be Jesus
If we Christians aren’t like Jesus, at least we could try to pretend better.
Maybe if we stopped putting off the pretending.
Maybe if we pretended a little more often, it wouldn’t have to be pretending anymore.

I do appreciate you reading my blog, but now that you’ve finished, maybe it’s time for you to close Facebook, shut your laptop or put your phone away, and go, without delay…

pretend to be Jesus.

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