What’s Your Pacifier? (Acting Like The Child You Are)

“Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom like a child will never enter it.”

Today was a milestone for my 3 year old. She said “thank you, goodbye” to her pacifiers, and we threw them out, never to be used again; and then celebrated with ice cream.

Now—a little backstory. My daughter has been leaning a bit more heavily on her pacifiers since she was weened from breastfeeding about a year ago. Whether it’s for sleep or when she needs emotional comfort, she’d readily and confidently proclaim “I need to get my pacifier to help my body.”
And today we said goodbye to that aide.
It’s not that they were actually pointless. No, they did, in fact, help her self-sooth when she recognized she needed that.
And it’s not that she won’t require “help” for her body going forward. She most definitely will.

No.
It’s that now—as she’s growing older—it’s time to move forward and find other ways to “help her body” when she catches herself needing emotional comfort; another outlet for her to self-sooth.
(As I said, we celebrated by eating ice cream afterwards, so I’m HOPING she doesn’t jump to “I need ice cream to help my body”…)

Here’s the thing: We ALL have “pacifiers.” And they’re not bad. And they’re not wrong. And they don’t make us weak simply because we need them to “help our bodies.” I think what has happened is we’ve associated growing up with doing away with pacifiers. And maybe that’s true. But I think what it moreso comes to is that we highly value being a grown-up. It’s holds more standing in a social hierarchy.
But here’s the question I have: is getting older the same as growing up?
Or can you get older, and yet still be childlike?

See, there’s many of us who (in some form or another) experienced trauma from a young age, and were—in a sense—forced to “grow up” quickly.
Grown-up children.

And yet, equally so, there are also many of us who never got older, even though we grew up.
Immature, “childish” adults.

Amen (Hebrew for “let it be (so)”) I say, unless you are “strepho” and “ginomai” children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

I’ve spent a lot of my life attempting to pass as a grown adult.

 

Most of this stems from deeply rooted issues and a need to protect myself (re: childhood trauma). And in my life, I’ve been both a grown-up child and a childish adult.

But here’s the quandary that Jesus presents: just what does it look like to allow yourself to be changed and become a child? What’s being a child look like when you’re an adult if not one of the two options mentioned above?

What’s it mean to be “childlike”?

Now, I love Spielberg’s 1991 film, “Hook.” And I was going to tie this post in with the film, but upon re-inspection of many of the ideas presented in Hook, I’m not sure how fully behind the message I am, as I once was.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot that’s right in what the message conveys.
And so rather than get into what it gets wrong, I’m simply going to stick with the points that I think encapsulate what I’m trying to convey.

In the course of the film, Peter Banning (actually THE Peter Pan) comes to realize why he left Neverland in the first place.

And it wasn’t to grow up.

It was to become a dad.

This comes after countless interactions with his children, angry at them for being, well…children. For not being grown-ups themselves.
And further, this comes after entering the previously thought to be imaginary world of Neverland. A place designed for children to escape to and never grow up. Except Neverland isn’t a place solely for actual children.

We see adults there too. However…“All Grown-Ups are pirates.”

So who are these grown-ups that have also escaped to this imaginary world? What exactly do the pirates convey? What are they obsessed with? What do they want? Who do they follow?
What do they live for?
And what were they escaping from?

They’re not children. But they act like children. Children with “grown-up”, adult preferences, desires.
Pacifiers.

So does that qualify the pirates in Neverland as being “childlike”?

Either way, there is, nevertheless, this stark difference between Neverland, and the “real” world.
Peter left Neverland not to grow up, but to become a father. And somewhere along the way, he grew up. The “grown-ups” in Neverland, the pirates, act like children, and perhaps would do so in the “real” world as well.
Maybe that’s why they escaped the real world for Neverland.
They’re not childlike, but they’re closer to what I think Jesus is looking for and requiring than the grown-ups in the real world. Some part of them knows that the real world is less real than Neverland.

The real world is more constructed and imaginary than Neverland.

And while the pirates are childish and not childlike, as I said, I think they’re closer and more ready to accept a Kingdom of Heaven as a child than most “grown-ups” in the real world.

So again, what’s it mean to be childlike?

Does it mean never letting go of your pacifiers?
Does it mean hating vegetables?
Pretending to be a baby?

You see, we weren’t having my daughter throw away her pacifiers in a bid to get her to grow up and be more adult(like). Because I believe that vulnerability and a need for comfort isn’t a weakness. I think the thing is, pretending that you’re invulnerable, and are want for nothing, that is weakness. And yet isn’t that what we’ve characterized what being “grown-up” is? Invulnerable. Strong. Independent. Self sufficient.
No weaknesses.
No need for help.

“I don’t need the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven needs ME.”
Image result for king kong got nothing on me gif

 

My daughter is growing older. But I don’t want her to grow up. Nor my son.
Because I’ve experienced what it is to be a grown ass man.
And I much prefer being childlike.

So what does it look like for YOU to allow yourself to become childlike?

Because I believe it means being vulnerable. It means knowing you’re just a kid. That there’s still SO much to experience. SO much to learn. SO much to discover.
It means not being so concerned with self. Not being self-conscious.
Not worried.
Carefree.
Maybe even to the point of being uncouth. Brazen.

 

Ultimately, to be childlike doesn’t mean to never leave Neverland.
To be childlike is to remember Neverland. To keep Neverland locked away in your heart, and treasured.
Because while Neverland isn’t the Kingdom of Heaven, perhaps it’s a close representation of what the Kingdom is.

Throw away your pacifiers.
Only when the time comes.
But don’t ever think you’ve grown up beyond pacifiers.

Because you are not a Pirate. AND you are not a Grown-Up.

But you’re also not a Lost Child (a Lost Boy), because you’re not Lost. Even if this world tell you you are. Even if you sometimes believe it.

However…see and believe that you are still a child, nevertheless.

Image result for you are the pan gif

So act like it.
ACT LIKE A CHILD.

BANGARANG.

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The Fellowship of the Ringos… (Ringoes? Ringo’s?): A Tale of Forming Community

If only it were as easy as those Beatles make it out to be…

Why is it that “Help” feels like another four letter word we’re not supposed to say? No matter how much and how far we’ve progressed forward, it fascinates me how we still correlate helplessness with weakness.
No, not all of us. And I’ve spoken often of how vulnerability is truly a strength. So why can we agree with that statement, but still feel the need to cover up our helplessness? Why can we agree that vulnerability is truly a strength, and still feel shame when it comes to asking for help?

Helplessness tends to speak to failure (on our part), and failure (on our part) tends to speak to worthlessness.

and [they] were naked and felt no shame…” – Genesis 2:25

It’s interesting that the verse above tends to correlate the bit about feeling shame with the bit about being naked. As if it was their nakedness that they weren’t ashamed of, until they were. As if they didn’t have any self consciousness about their nakedness. Perhaps this has to do with what happens later, when “their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Gen. 3:7)” and made clothes for themselves. And then later, Adam’s response to God as to why he was hiding: “I was afraid because I as naked; (v.10)” But it doesn’t mention shame in correlation to these verses. Simply that they “knew” they were naked.

So what if the story actually means to convey that they were naked, and also that they felt no shame? What if those two facts were separate truths?

Or what if it wasn’t their nakedness that they were trying to cover up after “their eyes were opened,” but instead it was their shame? (Maybe they were just too “young” then to understand or comprehend that that’s what they were doing.)

I think the confusion of correlation with that Genesis 2:25 verse conveys the same sort of confusion of correlation we have between helplessness and worthlessness. And so to ask for help isn’t to expose our nakedness, but expose our shame.

If you watched the music video at the start of this post, did Ringo Starr stand out to you like he did me? Sitting in the back, doing nothing productive but holding an umbrella? Constantly trying to get his face in view of the camera?
To me, Ringo was the only one in that video that truly displayed, truly manifested, the message of the song. Not hiding in the back. Put in the back. And striving to be seen. Help. I need somebody.

You ever feel like Ringo?

Personally, shame and coverups are a recurring theme in my life. Being physically and sexually assaulted on a bus in middle school, I was left with scars on my chest and torso. These were specifically done so that every time I saw the scars, I’d remember everything else that happened.
Every time I was naked and exposed, I’d see those scars.
And remember my moment(s) of utter helplessness.

And it worked.
And I did everything I could to cover up.
Not my nakedness, but my shame.
(I’ve preached a sermon on the full story years ago, so if you’d like it, click here)

Here’s what I find interesting about the close of the story of the “Fall of Mankind” in Genesis. We so often feel like it’s our fault that we’re not what we “should” be. We hear God calling and we hide. We see ourselves naked and exposed, and we cover up rather than be reminded of the truth. We don’t want to be around God because being around the Divine means that we (have the opportunity to) continually see ourselves as we (think we) are—incomplete, imperfect; inhuman.
We are the reason we’re in this helpless spot. It’s our fault. And we would rather cover up than be reminded of that shame.
But is that the story?
Is that how the close of the Genesis story of the “Fall” ends? With shame? And a nakedness and exposure that constantly serves to remind us of all that happened before?
If you’re John Edwards—or anyone that adheres to and follows the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” doctrine—you are. It’s our fault. We screwed up. God came a’lookin’ for retribution. And God WILL get the pound of flesh owed.
Except…
God didn’t leave the humans naked and exposed. Nor did God leave them to their own devices to try and continue clothing themselves.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” – Genesis 3:21

It’s as if the very shame they themselves continued trying to cover up, God covered for them.

In 1985, Berry Gordy released “The Last Dragon,” a Motown karate film. It’s been one of my favorite films since childhood. The protagonist, “Bruce” Leroy Green, has been training his entire life in martial arts to reach “the final level.” To glow (both metaphorically, and, it turns out, literally) by being a Master.

The problem is, he doesn’t believe in himself. And the whole movie is a quest for him to realize that he is what he’s been seeking all along.

 

I moved to Colorado Springs to get my Masters in Divinity in the hopes of pastoring a church. Not because I knew what it’d look like to do so, but because that was the path I believed I was to follow. The path I believed was mine.

I took the long way ’round.

I got my Masters, just not in Divinity. And began teaching almost immediately at the collegiate level. And the more I did that, the more I realized how closely it resembled what I had longed to do.
Eventually, I got ordained (online), and became a Reverend. And have sense been striving to convey to everyone just how much they matter. How much worth they truly have. And to begin to form a community of those who—as I do—seek that reminder.
A “church,” if you will.

I effectively forged my own path to what I’ve been longing to do.

And yet…

It wasn’t. And isn’t. Not quite.

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know that this semester I’m not teaching. Which is giving me a lot of time to think and process. What I’ve come to is this: I believe I’m being asked to willingly board that bus again from so long ago.
And I don’t know how it looks, or what it’s going to entail. But I’m willing. And I’m doing so.
And I think I’m finally ready to begin actively forming what I’ve longed to do for as long as I can remember.

So this is my call for help.

I’m asking for help.

But not just help. I’m asking for participation. The home page to this website has a call to join me in “Dreaming the Impossible Dream.” But it was never more than that. Never more than a call.
This time I’ve begun laying the groundwork.
I began a Patreon page, and this is my call to you to become a patron. Help support me, and honestly, lets form this community together.
It’s unconventional. And I still don’t know how it’ll look, or what form it’ll take. (Twitch live streams? Chats? Videos? Podcast? More writing content?) All I can say is that this is the beginning.
And I’m willing.
I’m surrendering to getting back on that bus, powerless and vulnerable, and into the unknown.

And this time, I mean it when I say this: “Will you join me?

All this time I’ve been looking and searching for that community, I’ve talked about it as if it were some far off “someday.” But it’s not. It’s “at hand.” There is one place I have not looked, and it is there, only there…
So it’s time to start.
Though…I do not know the way.

 

Will you join me? Will you help me bear this? Might I have your sword? Your bow? Your axe? Maybe just your company.
It will be…a community of those who find themselves always in the back.
It will be…

A Fellowship of the Ringos.

And let us figure out What Happens Next, TOGETHER.

Become a Patron of Leaving La Mancha, by supporting me on Patreon

OR…

MAKE A ONE TIME PAYMENT TO ME ON VENMO BY CLICKING HERE.

->and the world will be better for this…

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This New Year Needs More Sister Act

 

Full disclosure: I’m absolutely terrified about this new year. Legitimately, like to the point of periodic paralysis (I think they’re called panic attacks), as if I’m one of those freezing goats. I’m stuck between the end of one year that brought about SO much, the end of one decade that brought about even more, and the beginning of so much new.

New and unknown.

I think that’s why there’s such a tendency towards New Year’s Resolutions. New year, new you. Time to get things right, finally. Looking ever forward, in last year’s nests there are no birds this year. And it makes sense. We long for order—for a narrative. Structure. And there’s something about points in time like a New Year, the end of one period and the beginning of another, that just resonates with that longing; like a chapter break, and then a new chapter.
So we resolve particular things. In one sense of the word, we hope to end (bring resolution) things we didn’t like. And then we resolve other particular things. In the other sense of the word, we “commit” (make a resolution) to things we want for ourselves. I put commit in quotes because that’s always the issue, isn’t it. The commitment part.
So we believe in making New Years Resolutions. Ultimately, to bettering ourselves and our lives.

And that’s my point. I don’t think we don’t need resolutions. But what we need is a different definition of resolution. A different understanding of it. Because I believe what we really long for isn’t better, but harmony. Perhaps an end to disharmony in our lives, to discord, and to reach or achieve true harmony.

Music is based on a seven chord scale (7 has interesting connotations, like the seven days of creation). In a major chord, there’s…perfect harmony. But in a minor chord, one note is one half step off. The minor chord makes us long for the major chord; the minor chord evokes a longing for harmony. Basically, it evokes a longing for completion.
The discord (or perhaps, dis-chord) causes us to long for harmony, for completion. And in music, the term for this is resolution. When that major chord is reached, it’s called a resolution.

Harmony is resolution.

“It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift.”
The baffled king composing hallelujah.

That’s what’s being talked about in that song. The fourth to the fifth. The minor fall and the major lift. It’s talking about the progression from disharmony to harmony.
It’s talking about resolution.

When the minor falls, do you stop there?

In the film Sister Act, Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) is put in a convent as a form of witness protection. She’s told to lay low. To keep quiet. This is only temporary, and then she can get her old life back.
And she ends up changing everything. But more than that, she ends up being changed by everything.

See, as the clip above reveals, the choir is horrible. Out of tune. Unstructured. Disharmonious.

And everyone hates it. Well, actually, everyone hates it, but is content to leave things the way they are. To just deal with the horribleness of it, the discord.
Eventually, Deloris (called Sister Mary Clarence in the convent) gets placed in the choir, and takes it upon herself to correct it. You see, she’s not supposed to stand out, she’s just to lay low and not get too involved. But she can’t help it. So she takes charge, and turns discord into harmony.
She brings about resolution.
But it doesn’t look exactly like how everyone wants it to look.

 

She brings harmony, but with funk. She brings harmony, but it’s unbridled.

She brings harmony, and in a word, it means freedom. Even if freedom is uncomfortable.
And freedom is not what everyone wants. Because freedom can FEEL like chaos, it can SEEM like discord. Which can easily be confused with discomfort.
But harmony is freeing. And freedom is contagious.

Harmony spreads.

Basically, in the film Sister Act, when “the minor” fell (for Deloris Van Cartier), she didn’t stop there. She didn’t settle. She kept going to the major lift.
She kept going THROUGH the discord (dis-chord), until the harmony. Even if she and everyone else suffered through discomfort for it.

That’s an important point to zero in on:

Discomfort can feel like discord, but it doesn’t always mean that those two things are one and the same.
If all you’re used to is discord—if all you’re used to is disharmony—then harmony can absolutely BE uncomfortable.

 

I always connected to Whoopi Goldberg’s character in the Sister Act films. That feeling of being stifled. That longing to not be stifled. And then finding yourself in that very position. In everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve wanted to bring about the freedom that she brings in those films. To bring harmony, and also funk.
Because freedom is harmonious. But I like to think it’s also funky.
If you’ve never allowed yourself to truly be free, well then once you experience freedom truly, it can truly make you uncomfortable. But would you rather be uncomfortably free, or comfortably not free? To be king of your own castle, but one that’s a prison.

Maybe we’re all the baffled king”… (or at least start out as such)

Because all of this feels so baffling, particularly to someone like me who tends to find comfort in knowing.
As I said at the beginning, I’m terrified of this new year.
Personally, there’s a number of reasons why. One of which is the fact that I’m not going to be teaching this coming spring semester, and returning to teach again for summer and fall. But in the meantime, I have no idea what I’m going to do.
I’m finding myself completely baffled. Confused. More to the point, I’m finding myself in discord—disharmony.

The song Hallelujah begins with the verse, “I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord.” David is the “baffled king” that later verses are referring to.

With all of my being, I wish I knew that secret chord that pleased the Lord. Because somewhere in my head, I’m convinced that if I get it right, if I can just do something right, I can please the Lord. And MAYBE, just maybe, if I do that, I’ll not be so terrified, because I know I’ll be taken care of.
And I won’t have to worry.
I’ll only be free when I get it right. When I get ME, right.

I don’t want to be the baffled king. And I don’t want to keep living in the minor fall.

But maybe it’s because I don’t really want to “compose hallelujah.” (In the Hebrew texts, “hallelujah” basically means “praise God” or “to praise God”) Or at least, I don’t want to be “composing hallelujah” in disharmony.
I want harmony. Without suffering through being baffled.
I want harmony without the hallelujah. I want harmony without praising God.
Because harmony in disharmony doesn’t make sense in my logic and reason and need for structure and narrative. Because praising God in discord is difficult. Hell, it’s more than difficult. It’s practically hell.

How do you exist as a baffled king, and also compose hallelujah?

When you find yourself the baffled king, it feels like your voice has been taken from you. You don’t want to sing. You feel like you can’t sing. Like maybe your song has been taken from you…

In Sister Act 2, Deloris Van Cartier is put in a similar position and role as she was in the first film (only this time, it’s her choice to do so; she knows her role): namely, to bring harmony to disharmony. To turn discord into resolution. And she does it again. Because again, harmony spreads.
But at the end of the film, as the high school choir is set to compete, another school has sung their song (“Joyful, Joyful”). One student in particular, Lauren Hill’s character, has been repeatedly told that nothing will come from her singing. Which seems true of the choir as a whole. To an inner city school and its population, maybe that’s true. Nevertheless, when all seems lost, when it’s all pointless, the choir sings.
More than that, they allow themselves to be free. Instead of being what they should be (as we try to make ourselves with our New Years Resolutions), they simply allow themselves to be themselves. They don’t change themselves (make themselves).
They sing.

And maybe that’s exactly the point.
That harmony IS composing hallelujah when all is lost.

What if harmony is “composing hallelujah” in disharmony?

I have no clue what this year will bring. Not least of which for me, let alone for you either. But the question I pose to you is the same question I pose to myself:

How willing are you to be the baffled king, and compose hallelujah?

I think we need New Years Resolutions. Or perhaps just resolution. What we need is an end to discord. Harmony.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth the discomfort?
What if you had to take off your robes, or your fig leaves? What if it requires you being you? All of you? Exposed?
What if resolution requires vulnerability?

Put on anything you want, if we’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna go out there comfortable.”

Meaning, we’re gonna go out there FREE.

Or maybe it’s going out there that’ll make us comfortable. Eventually.

So if you find yourself in turmoil this New Year, in strife, in discord and disharmony, remember Sister Act (1 and 2). Don’t try to change yourself. Or strive to be what you think you SHOULD be.
Surrender to the song.
Let it overtake you.
Sing.
Because if you keep singing, Resolution will come. The minor falls, the major lifts.
And harmony will come.
And freedom will come.
And it’ll be contagious.
And it’ll be funky.
And above all, it’ll be joyful.

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