I sometimes wish that I could write different types of songs. You know, songs that have the words like “baby” or “booty” in them and make a lot of money… Ok, not really, even though I probably wouldn’t really mind getting paid copious amounts of money now and then. (I imagine that there’s probably a reason that Brittney Spears isn’t going to come out with a worship record any time soon…)
But I like writing worship songs, and there’s actually a reason that I write them. There’s something about singing to God that is really important to me. There’s something transcendent about it. There’s something about it that seems to set everything into a better perspective. Life becomes less centered on me, and you know this universe can be quite a magnificent place when it’s not centered on you.
2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The closest that I ever get to what I think Jesus was talking about here is in worship. In worship, I get to lay down all my ideas and theologies and doubts about God for a little while. I get to open my mind and heart to a reality that cannot really be understood, only experienced and then barely expressed. Worship has this ability to humble the proud, autonomous adult into something more like a wide-eyed, gaping-mouthed child.
For a child, everything is new and full of wonder and magic. We give them little plastic dolls, and they don’t just see them as little plastic dolls but as heroes and princesses that will live out untold future adventures, battles, and romances.
I remember playing out in my back yard when I was a little kid, and it seemed so big and full of potential. There was no end to the fun we could have in our backyard. We could make forts in it. We could run around and play tag. We could build obstacle courses. I remember driving by that back yard as an adult and thinking, “that was it?” Through my adult eyes, it was just a yard with a big pile of dirt out by some weeds.
When I was a kid, that big pile of dirt was a mountain to be explored and mined. I don’t know how many nights my mom would have to almost drag us off of that thing as for dinner. We would come in full of the sand and dirt from that hill. It would be in our shoes, under our fingernails, and on our scalps, but what did we care? We had to dig because when you would dig a couple of feet down, the dirt would change and it would become this clay-like substance. That was all the reason that we needed to spend all afternoon digging and making giant craters in the wondrous and mysterious sand-clay mountain (pile of dirt).
There were these trees in our backyard that we used to climb. At the time they seemed so huge and scary and exciting. Now, they don’t look like giant jungle gyms to me anymore as much as decorative curb appeal that serves as a nice property line that probably gives each property a bit more value.
What happens to us that makes us forget how magical the world is?
In his book “Orthodoxy”, G.K. Chesterton writes that the truest stories in the world are the fairy tales of our childhood.
“I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened – dawn and death and so on – as if they were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail.”
He believes that fairy tales are more true than other stories because, “These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”
Peter Pan is a true story because there is something about adulthood that can kill the wonder, the life, the magic of the world that we so easily understand as children. When did we stop being amazed that the sky is bright blue? Is a bright blue sky with giant white puffy clouds any less magical than a pink sky with floating candy canes? Is that yellow flaming ball 93 million miles away that keeps us warm any less magical than a powerful wizard who shoots fire from his staff? Is a rainbow somehow less full of mystery and wonder than a magic beanstalk simply because we understand a little about the spectrum of light’s frequencies?
The fact that stars that are light years away from us were visible to us last night shouldn’t make it less amazing that they are visible to us tonight. The fact that we understand the effect of gravity shouldn’t make it less amazing to us that gravity exists in the first place.
Jesus taught us that unless we learn how to be like a little child, we miss out on what the Kingdom of God is all about.
When we lose the wonder of the world, we lose a big part of what it is supposed to mean to be human. A chicken doesn’t look up at night and ask “who am I that you are mindful of me?” A tree does not have the ability to have its mind blown. Only you and I have this gift. On this planet, only humans have the ability to dig and study and discover how beautiful creation actually is.
I heard a sermon by N.T. Wright that dealt with this subject masterfully. He talked about Revelations 4, and how it gives us an extremely potent example of humanity’s place within the created order of things.
In Revelations 4, John describes a beautiful picture of creation’s worship of the Creator. This is not simply a prediction of some future reality, but a picture of what is happening now. He describes these four “living creatures”, which is most likely representative of non-human creation. The animals, the mountains, the quarks and quasars…
John echoes the idea that the Psalmist wrote about hundreds of years before about how the heavens declare the glory of God. In John’s vision, these four creatures are crying
‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.
These creatures constantly praise God with their existence, but then there is another dynamic in the throne room that John mentions. He refers to twenty-four elders who are also in the throne room and also are a part of this grand symphony of worship to the God of the universe. These elders have crowns that they lay at the feet of God as they articulate the praise of creation in a deeper way. Not only do they offer praise, but they offer a reason for it.
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
The human creation, unlike anything else in creation has the ability to offer the “for”…the reason that God is worthy. Human beings have the unique role of understanding, marveling at and articulating the wonder of God’s creation. The image of the crowns that humans wear has ties all the way back to the first story in the Bible where God creates humans to rule within creation as His image-bearing sons and daughters.
So when you look at your world today, I urge you to try to remember this bigger story. When you look up into the blue sky, realize what a strange and glorious thing it is that it is blue. When you go to bed tonight, try to be amazed at this ability your body has to turn on and off like that. Really taste the food that you eat today. Think about a few of the breaths that God gives you as He gives you them, and thank Him for them. I’m going to try to do that as well, and hopefully we can learn how to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven a little bit more fully.